Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Get Mad for Molly

There are two kinds of humor.

One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity --
like what Garrison Keillor does.
The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.
I only aim at the powerful.
When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.

~~Molly Ivins

As Truthdig sadly noted in We’ll Miss You, Molly:
Molly Ivins died today at the age of 62. As a veteran journalist and columnist, Molly’s sharp tongue and stubborn determination to cut through the bull and fight for what’s right touched the lives of millions. America is poorer for her absence.
See also, Molly Ivins, 1944-2007.

And with thanks to Rozius, don't miss this article by David Rubien that captures the essence of Molly Ivins that was penned for Salon in December of 2000, Molly Ivins: Balancing humor and passion, the proudly partisan Texas pundit elevates a profession dominated by mediocrity and received ideas.

Remember her words from her last column: Raise Hell. Do it-- for Molly.

Listen to the Hand

Don't Miss the Message!

(Via The Unknown Candidate)


Cartoon of the Day

* Scott Stantis, Birmingham News

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's D.C. Dick

Richard Cheney
Born: January 30, 1941

In honor of the birthday of the VP, is this skit by Jon Stewart.

And then, for the icing on the cake, is this little tidbit from Dan Froomkin, The Unraveling of Dick Cheney, in which he says of Cheney:

While Dick Cheney undoubtedly remains the most powerful vice president this nation has ever seen, it's becoming increasingly unclear whether anyone outside the White House believes a word he says.

Inside the West Wing, Cheney's influence remains considerable. In fact, nothing better explains Bush's perplexing plan to send more troops to Iraq than Cheney's neoconservative conviction that showing the world that we have the "stomach for the fight" is the most important thing -- even if it isn't accomplishing the things we're supposed to be fighting for. Even if it's backfiring horribly.

But as his astonishing interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer laid bare last week, Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.

Maybe that works within the White House. But for the rest of us, it's becoming a better bet to assume that everything -- or almost everything -- Cheney says is flat wrong.

And for the candles, there's this:

Carl Hiaasen writes in his Miami Herald column: "There are several possible explanations for the vice president's bizarre performance:

"* He's crazy as a loon.

"* He's a compulsive liar.

"* He's gotten his prescriptions mixed up with Rush Limbaugh's.

"Whatever the clinical reason might be, Cheney continues to float blissfully through a smug and surreal fog."

Finally, in Editor & Publisher, Dick Cheney: The New 'Baghdad Bob'?, Greg Mitchell asks the question, "Is the former Iraqi propaganda minister inhabiting the soul of our vice president?" Mitchell notes:

Is it just me, or is Vice President Cheney, in his latest statements, starting once again to sound like another balding, rose-colored-glasses wearing war spokesman, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, better known as “Baghdad Bob”?

* * * *
In a later Newsweek interview he said that the president's State of the Union address had "shored up" his public standing -- even though every major poll shows that it actually sank.

Is it time to start calling Cheney "Beltway Bob"? Or "D.C. Dick"? Or perhaps "Bunker Bob"?

Baghdad Bob, of course, was Saddam Hussein's minister of information, later immortalized on t-shirts, Web sites, and even a DVD for his optimistic, if fanciful, statements about Iraq's triumph over the American infidels, right up to the point his boss left the building. Baghdad Bob somehow survived and later worked as an Arab TV commentator, sans trademark beret (although he now seems to have inhabited our vice president's body).

As you wish him birthday wishes, read Mitchell's column for a few Baghdad Bob classics that could be confused with D.C. Dick.

Cartoon of the Day

* Justin Bilicki

We're Number One

Pennsylvania leads the way with this ignominious "honor" of having the highest black homicide rate in the country, with a per capita murder rate of more than six times the national average, as reported in Violence Policy Center. The report notes:

Pennsylvania leads the nation in the rate of black homicide victimization according to a new analysis of unpublished Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study, Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2004 Homicide Data, uses 2004 data—the most recent data available from the FBI—and is the first analysis to rank the 50 states according to their black homicide rates. The study found overwhelmingly that firearms, usually handguns, were the weapon of choice in the homicides.

* * * *
The study warns that "the toll that homicide exacts on black teens and young adults in America, both male and female, is disproportionate, disturbing, and undeniable" and concludes, "As efforts are made to reduce America's black homicide victimization toll, the unique facilitating role of firearms cannot be ignored."
Of course, for those of us living in Philly, this does not come as a big surprise. The Inquirer has had a special series on Violence, focusing on the increasing number of homicides and shootings in Philadelphia and other areas in the state. The November 2006 issue of Philadelphia Magazine featured an article on gun violence in the city, see The Dead of Night. And Pennsylvania has earned a D+ from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, see Philadelphia Weekly.

This also corresponds to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, States With Higher Levels of Gun Ownership Have Higher Homicide Rates, concluding:
Firearms are used to kill two out of every three homicide victims in America.. In the first nationally representative study to examine the relationship between survey measures of household firearm ownership and state level rates of homicide, researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that homicide rates among children, and among women and men of all ages, are higher in states where more households have guns.
To quote Eric D. Snider: Guns Don't Kill People ... Oh, Wait, Yes They Do .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Funnies

And now it's time for the Sunday Funnies.

As Onegoodmove noted, Stephen Colbert's explanation of the President's healthcare plan is the best I've heard yet.

(Via onegoodmove)

Commander in Caudillo

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell yesterday asked White House spokeswoman Dana Perino if Bush is a lame duck. Perino's response: "The president is never going to be a lame duck -- he's commander in chief at a time of war." (Emphasis added)
This from Dan Froomkin, of the Washington Post, A Lurid Look Behind the Curtain.

Speaking of which, Garry Wills, professor emeritus of history at Northwestern, has written an excellent op-ed in the NYTimes, At Ease, Mr. President, regarding the use (misuse) of the term "Commander in Chief" as a synonym for "President." Not so, says Wills:
But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.

* * * *
The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline. In wartime, it is true, people submit to the national leadership more than in peacetime. The executive branch takes actions in secret, unaccountable to the electorate, to hide its moves from the enemy and protect national secrets. Constitutional shortcuts are taken “for the duration.” But those impositions are removed when normal life returns.

But we have not seen normal life in 66 years. The wartime discipline imposed in 1941 has never been lifted, and “the duration” has become the norm. World War II melded into the cold war, with greater secrecy than ever — more classified information, tougher security clearances. And now the cold war has modulated into the war on terrorism.

There has never been an executive branch more fetishistic about secrecy than the Bush-Cheney one. The secrecy has been used to throw a veil over detentions, “renditions,” suspension of the Geneva Conventions and of habeas corpus, torture and warrantless wiretaps. We hear again the refrain so common in the other wars — If you knew what we know, you would see how justified all our actions are.

But we can never know what they know. We do not have sufficient clearance.

* * * *

We used to take pride in civilian leadership of the military under the Constitution, a principle that George Washington embraced when he avoided military symbols at Mount Vernon. We are not led — or were not in the past — by caudillos.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prescient last book, “Secrecy,” traced the ever-faster-growing secrecy of our government and said that it strikes at the very essence of democracy — accountability of representatives to the people. How can the people hold their representatives to account if they are denied knowledge of what they are doing? Wartime and war analogies are embraced because these justify the secrecy. The representative is accountable to citizens. Soldiers are accountable to their officer. The dynamics are different, and to blend them is to undermine the basic principles of our Constitution.

In Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz discusses the impact of this militarization of our politics, referring to the NYTimes case mentioned in Secrecy Is at Issue in Suits Opposing Spy Program. The concerns are not theoretical; as the article examines the extraordinary steps the Justice Department is taking to control legal proceedings with national security implications. As Kurtz notes:
Congress and the Judiciary have allowed themselves to be steamrolled by the Executive. The mid-term elections forced Congress to change. There is no such external corrective mechanism for the Judiciary, which is at it should be. So judges and justices will have to stand up to defend an independent judiciary. Will they? The record so far is mixed, at best.
And of course, for the definitive word on this issue, read Glenn Greenwald's piece, Public servant v. Military Commander. He agrees with Wills' analysis, but he considered the issue last year during the NSA illegal eavesdropping program revelations. Greenwald adds:
This is much more than semantics. The constant, improper references to President Bush as "Commander-in-Chief" -- rather than what Theodore Roosevelt called "merely the most important among a large number of public servants" -- pervades the media and shapes how it talks about the President in all sorts of destructive ways.
In other words, as a Commander, he's a Caudillo.

She Sings Like an Angel

Sarah McLachlan
Born: January 28, 1968

Angel, with Santana, Live

Cartoon of the Day

* Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Delusional is not the Word

With Molly Ivins hospitalized, Maureen Dowd of the NY Times has to pick up the slack, which she does -- as only she can do. In Daffy Does Doom, Dowd steps up to the plate:

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

* * * *

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

* * * *

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

* * * *

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

( Dowd article also available from Rozius Unbound)

Cartoon of the Day

* Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Raise Hell

'nuff said, originally uploaded by Tracy Russo.

I just read that one of my favorite political columnists, Molly Ivins (and one of the few things left from Texas that I like) has been hospitalized because of a recurring battle with breast cancer. See Molly Ivins' cancer 'back with a vengeance'.

Her last published column, Stand Up Against the ‘Surge’, had this to say:

The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. . . . How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that we simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost.

* * * *
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!” (Emphasis added).
I'm sure Ivins is pleased with the protest against the Iraq War at the National Mall in DC today, Protest Focuses on Troop Increase for Iraq. NPR's article on the march, Tens of Thousands Demand Iraq Pullout, said:
Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.

"Silence is no longer an option," Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall.

Quote of the Day

Keith Olbermann
Born: January 27, 1959

You know, every once in a while you should bring the flag out and say, “What does our country stand for?” The first thing that I think of is the statement that I disagree with your beliefs, but I will fight to the death for your right to express them. When the secretary of defense and the president of the United States make statements that indicate those statements are no longer operative, then you have to say something. It’s no longer liberal versus conservative at that point. It’s American versus truly un-American. So I’m not courting anybody with these things, I’m saying these things because I think they need to be said. I think they need to be underlined and underscored in the public discourse.

(Via Daily Kos)

We've Only Just Begun

The race for the next mayor of Philly has officially started. With the latest entry to the race, Bob Brady, see Brady launches his mayoral bid, the fun now begins.

Blogger Philebrity describes a strange YouTube video about the Brady campaign for Mayor, in The Curious Mystery Of The Bob Brady Racist YouTube Clip, noting:

Today, Bob Brady and his campaigners are celebrating Brady’s entrance into the Mayor’s race — one long in coming, and promising to be one of the more visible campaigns of the quickly gathering May storm. To some, Brady is a peacemaker among unions, pols and wards frequently at odds; to others, he’s representative of a Philly Dem scene still oddly content with back room deals and letting unions swing entire elections. But today on our daily YouTube crawl, we noticed something utterly baffling to us.
Describing the video, Philebrity continues:
[S]et to DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat,” the clip ruminates on a clip of Chaka Fattah speaking on the House floor, before moving to stock footage of young black men dancing in the street, then Mayor Street, then, absurdly, Mumia Abu-Jamal and stills from pro-Mumia rallies. Suddenly, Bob Brady’s face appears on the screen. The montage continues, until just about the end, where a legend bears: “THIS MAY, DO THE RIGHT THING,” followed by a shot of a “Fattah For Mayor” placard with “Fattah” x’ed out in spray-paint, and ammended: “Brady For Mayor.”
Weird is right. Philebrity puzzles over its meaning & origin:
The imagery and sequence of the whole thing suggests a play on a racist’s worst nightmare; the video suggests that if Fattah were to be elected, Philadelphia would be overcome by an African-American presence, with dancing in the streets, and lots and lots of Mumia and Street. Or maybe we’re crazy. But we don’t think so. Whether or not this is in fact a video put up by the Brady campaign, we can’t say, but we doubt it. This feels like political suicide. So here’s the question: Where is this coming from, and who the hell is doing it? We’re presently looking into it, and promise to report what we find. Stay tuned.
The "stay tuned" didn't take long. Next up was the take down of the video (got that?), Bob Brady Update: Underground Poster Makers Quickly Running Out Of Rhymes. However, Philebrity saved the day (and the video), and re-posted it on Youtube here.

Then there was this.

The Next Mayor blog reports, in Brady's candidacy is now 90 minutes old, that a Daily News reporter found this Brady poster. From the streets to the internets. My, my -- someone out there doesn't like Bob Brady too much.

I have to say, I don't know too much about Brady. For an interesting view of Brady, see this Philadelphia Magazine piece, The Maybe Mayor.

At this point, I'm still considering my options, as they say, although my leanings are for either Nutter or Evans. I attended a "meet & greet" for Evans a few weeks ago (on the day of the Eagles wildcard playoff against the Giants, no less) and was favorably impressed with him. I was always a Nutter fan, but I'm not too wild about his plan to sidestep civil liberties for security. I agree violence in Philly is at a crisis stage & we need to take drastic measures. I'm all for gun control and police protection measures, but I just don't buy giving up our constitutional rights to do so. I think there's a way to do both, without resorting to a further erosion of our rights. Bush has done a good enough job of that without any further help.

One final observation. As I was reading about the Brady stuff, I realized why I felt so at home in Philly. Philly politics are just like Scranton politics -- cozy & corrupt. It used to be said that death never stopped anyone from voting in Scranton. When people talk about how bad things are here, I joke that I'm sure I'm still voting in Scranton, even though I left over 30 years ago.

(Via Attytood)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Impersonators

Asking the question, Is The Press Like Rich Little, An Impersonation? the Hartford Advocate, in a piece entitled Are We Still Alive?, looks at Rich Little's selection for the White House Correspondents Association dinner. The initial reaction to Little's selection was that the WHCA was too wimpy to permit the Bush Administration to be bashed -- even by a comedian.

Echoing my comments at That's Rich, Alan Bisbort says:

The first question anyone asks when they hear his name now is: Is he still alive? It’s the question I asked the other day when I heard that Paul Harvey had said some racist thing on the radio: Is Paul Harvey still alive? Do they still prop that corpse up in front of a microphone?
See also, Extreme Mortman's roundup of blog comments on his resurrection (including yours truly), in his post cleverly named The Death Of Comedy.

Bisbort then looks inward -- at journalism itself and what this seemingly minor squeamishness portends. As he observes:
But I think a wider view of this seemingly petty entertainment choice is warranted. That is, we should ask: Is American journalism still alive? By journalism, I mean print, TV and radio news venues. Circulation figures of daily newspapers are in free fall; as reporters leave, they are not replaced. The void is not filled with competent freelancers. It’s filled with hobbyist hacks or “interns,” essentially working for free or close to it. The readers, publishers seem to think, don’t know the difference. Ah, but they do, which explains the falling circulation figures, all of which can’t conveniently be blamed on the Internet.

Radio stations that once provided alternative views and community news are dying. Even classical music stations — which at least provided reliable quality — are being replaced with “all talk.” But this doesn’t mean news. It means talk. Talk, talk talk — either the babble of shock jocks or soothing tones of an NPR nice person slathering icing on the shit sandwich we’re forced to eat each day in the Age of Bush because they’re scared some mean GOP thug will pull their plug (memo to NPR: As the last election showed, the American people hold the GOP in as high regard as staph infections). TV news is a joke, literally. The two best news programs are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s shows, which are parodies. And Keith Olbermann, an ex-ESPN voice who’s morphed into Edward R. Murrow, is fast moving up into third place. Katie Couric? Please. The late great Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes gets replaced by Scott Pelley? Pathetic.

* * * *
So the question is begged: Is the press even alive? Or is it, like Rich Little, merely an impersonation? If Little or the White House press corps had any spine at all — and weren’t just serving as court jesters for petulant King George — they would refuse to abide by the event’s restrictions. Instead, Little should stick the shiv deep into the soft white underbelly of power, and the White House press corps should laugh its collective asses off. That may be the only thing that will save them at this point.
Bisbort's words are so true. Entertainment does not equal news. Although you'd be hard pressed to know that by watching what passes for news today. And worst of all, it's not even funny. I guess that's why Stewart & Colbert have become more popular than traditional news (print or TV). At least you get to laugh while you cry about what's really going on.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It Ain't Over . . .

Until we get the Jon Stewart view -- on the SOTU speech, that is. It's the last word, worth waiting for.

After summarizing the topics covered by Bush, Stewart muses:

"Interesting. He appears to be contradicting everything he stands for. Wait ... I recognize this tactic . . .I've seen it before."

"If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right," says Jerry Seinfeld to George.
Truer words were never spoken.

(Via onegoodmove)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sui Generis

Editor & Publisher excerpts a portion of an on-line chat from the Washington Post with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, Bush Administraton Has Done 'Far Greater Damage' Than Nixon. The "interview" presents a dark, disturbing assessment of the devastating effects of the reign of Bush, as Bernstein compares the Bush and Nixon Administrations in a scathing, yet accurate, indictment:

"In the case George W. Bush, the American system has obviously failed -- tragically -- about which we can talk more in a minute. But imagine the difference in our worldview today, had the institutions -- particularly of government -- done their job to insure that a mendacious and dangerous president (as has since been proven many times over-beyond mere assertion) be restrained in a war that has killed thousands of American soldiers, brought turmoil to the lives of millions, and constrained the goodwill towards the United States in much of the world."

Later, asked if the Nixon administration was unique in hiring disreputable characters, he replied: "Until the Bush-43 administration, I had believed that the Nixon presidency was sui generis in modern American history in terms of your question...

"In terms of small-bore (but dangerous) characters like Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy with their schemes, I doubt that any presidency approaches the criminality of the Nixon White House. But the Watergate conspiracy--to undermine the constitution and use illegal methods to hurt Nixon's political opponents and even undermine the electoral system--was supervised by those at the very top.

"In the current administration we have seen from the President down--especially Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Gonzales, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld--a willingness to ignore the great constitutional history of the United States -- to suspend, really, the many of the constitutional guarantees that have made us a nation apart, with real freedoms unknown elsewhere, unrestricted by short-term political objectives of our leaders.

"Then there are the Geneva conventions: Who would have dreamed that, in our lifetime, our leaders would permit their flagrant abuse, would authorize torture, 'renditions' to foreign-torture chambers, suspension of habeas corpus, illegal surveillance of our own citizens....

"But perhaps worst, has been the lying and mendacity of the president and his men and women--in the reasons they cited for going to war, their conduct of the war, their attempts to smear their political opponents.

"Nixon and his men lied and abused the constitution to horrible effect, but they were stopped.

"The Bush Administration -- especially its top officials named above and others familiar to most Americans -- was not stopped, and has done far greater damage. As a (Republican) bumper-sticker of the day proclaimed, 'Nobody died at Watergate.' If only we could say that about the era of George W. Bush, and that our elected representatives in Congress and our judiciary had been courageous enough to do their duty and hold the President and his aides accountable."

Bernstein was also asked about the CIA leak case and the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, which he called "a truly Nixonian event, a happenstance not atypical of the take-no-prisoners politics of the Bush presidency. But it pales in comparison to the larger questions of the Constitution, of life and death, of the Geneva conventions, of the expectation that our leaders -- from Condoleeza Rice to Dick Cheney, to the attorney(s) general to Paul Wolfowitz and on down and up the line speak truthfully to the American people and the Congress. They have consistently failed to do so."
Imagine that. Bush has surpassed the worst of Nixon. A new sui generis. With two years to go.

Life Support

Two interesting recaps of the State of the Union speech.

In The State of the Union, from top to bottom, Dick Polman sets the stage:

President Bush’s political predicament was best illustrated by the tableau behind him. As he got ready to deliver his subdued State of the Union address, he was flanked, over his right shoulder, by Dick Cheney, perhaps the only elected leader at the moment who is more unpopular than Bush is; not to mention the fact that Cheney had his name bandied about all day during the Scooter Libby perjury trial. And Bush was flanked, over his left shoulder, by Nancy Pelosi, whose rise to the House speakership can be directly attributed to Bush’s ruinous war of choice in Iraq.
With Salon's piece by Walter Shapiro, Two long years to go, the subtitle says it all: Despite his prattle about cutting the deficit, a grudging nod to global climate change, and yet another plea for backup on his Iraq plan, Bush's presidency entered its final phase on life support.

Providing a good point-by-point analysis of the speech (especially, if like me, you couldn't bear to watch), Polman's summation of the speech is damning:
Most State of the Union speeches (a purely 20th-century contrivance, mandated nowhere in the Constitution) are pretty worthless, no matter which party occupies the White House, and this one was no exception. Every president pledges to work in a bipartisan manner, and it’s only a matter of time before the pledge is breached. Bush managed to do this – perhaps inadvertently – within the first 30 seconds. He talked up the “wisdom of working together,” and then (according to the written transcript) he proceeded to “congratulate the Democratic majority.” The problem was that when he spoke the sentence, he extended congrats to “the Democrat majority” – the standard GOP pejorative that ticks off Democratic lawmakers every time.
For its part, the Salon article aptly observes:
Imagine if the Constitution required George W. Bush to report to Congress annually on the state of the presidency, rather than the nation. There could be only one word to describe Bush's current condition: "dire," the same adjective that Lt. Gen. David Petraeus employed Tuesday morning to characterize the military situation in Iraq.

Ever since Woodrow Wilson created the modern tradition of oral State of the Union addresses, by appearing before Congress in 1913, few presidents (maybe only Herbert Hoover in 1932 and Richard Nixon in 1974) have embarked on this rhetorical task with such dismal prospects for political salvation. It would take both victory in Iraq and a free Prius for every family to rescue a president whose approval ratings -- 28 percent in the latest CBS News poll -- have sunk lower than the number of voters who want to send more troops to Iraq (29 percent in the same survey).

* * * *
What we are witnessing is the downside of the stability built into the American political system -- the inability of a four-year presidential administration to fall of its own weight. If this were a parliamentary system, all it would take would be a no-confidence vote in Congress to bring on a new presidential election. And probably even a significant minority of Republicans would support such a heave-ho motion. But instead -- keeping in mind that incompetence is not an impeachable offense -- we are saddled with Bush and Dick Cheney for another two years. Which raises the grave issue of whether a president -- armed with his formidable constitutional powers -- can function without the support of Congress, two-thirds of the voters and a growing number of senior members (Virginia Sen. John Warner is a prime example) of his own party.

* * * *
But there is nothing normal about a second-term president whose popularity is slipping dangerously close to Barry Bonds levels. Bush is more than a lame duck; he is akin to an aquatic bird carried around on a stretcher. Maybe the most memorable aspect of the 2007 State of the Union address is simply that Bush survived it.
I knew I was better off with this or this.

Cartoon of the Day

* Bruce Beattie, Daytona News Journal

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SOTU, Take 6

Anything to avoid the real thing. Via the Daily Show, another view of the SOTU.

President Bush will deliver his 6th State of the Union address tonight. By analyzing previous speeches, Stewart is able to predict the material in tonight's State of the Union address to Congress.

Sneak Preview

The State of the Union was pre-recorded. So now I don't have to watch the real thing.

As YouTube video poster Mildewmaximilian said:

James Adomian is back with his fantastic Bush impression and another pre-emptive satirical strike on this year's State of the Union address. And the Democratic response at the end is hilarious!

(Via Atrios)

Cartoon of the Day

* Tom Toles, The Washington Post


This "Hardball" spoof from SNL of a Chris Matthews interview with Hillary Clinton is ouchingly funny:

"I think my supporters know my support for the war was always insincere."

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Reason Why

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

I don't really have a story to tell.

I'm not pro-Choice because I had an abortion. Not even a close call. In fact, the opposite is true for me. It took me some time to get pregnant and I am now the proud (most days, anyway) mother of a beautiful 16 year old daughter.

I am pro-choice because I have been lucky enough to live the life I wanted. After I finished school, I established my career before deciding that I was ready to start a family. I was able to choose that path without difficulty. Not everyone is so fortunate. I am for Choice for those women. I want others to be able to follow the path that works for them. That path may be motherhood -- or it may not.

It's all about choices. That's part of life.

For other voices expressing why they are pro-choice, see Blogs for Choice.

Cartoon of the Day

* Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

That's Rich

When I first read that impressionist Rich Little was this year's choice for the White House Correspondents Association Dinner (after Stephen Colbert hosted last year's show), I must admit that my first reaction was -- gee, is he still with us? He is. As Wonkette put it, Bob Hope Sadly Too Dead to Headline WCHA Dinner:

After a White House Correspondents Dinner marred by a speech that was actually, tragically funny, the WHCA has taken steps to ensure that never again will the C-SPAN-watching public accidentally crack a smile. This year’s dinner guest of honor: Rich Little.

Yeah, the impressionist known for his humorous takes on Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Johnny Carson, and hopefully some people who aren’t dead.
Will Bunch of Attytood first mentioned his appearance, noting that Little said that the organizers made it clear he was to not do a Colbert:
Little said organizers of the event made it clear they don't want a repeat of last year's controversial appearance by Stephen Colbert, whose searing satire of President Bush and the White House press corps fell flat and apparently touched too many nerves.

"They got a lot of letters," Little said Tuesday. "I won't even mention the word 'Iraq.'"

Little, who hasn't been to the White House since he was a favorite of the Reagan administration, said he'll stick with his usual schtick -- the impersonations of the past six presidents.

"They don't want anyone knocking the president. He's really over the coals right now, and he's worried about his legacy," added Little, a longtime Las Vegas resident.

See Don't mention the war (or bash Bush). Bunch added his comments:
OK, free speech means you also have a right NOT to say anything or criticize anybody. But for the White House press corps to instruct Little not to "knock" the president smacks of a kind of censorship, from the very people that we've placed in the front line trenches of free speech.
Bunch later updated his post, reporting that the WHCA said that it didn't give Little any explicit instructions not to bash Bush. Apparently, they didn't have to. In RINGER, the New Yorker observes:

Each spring, the White House Correspondents’ Association hosts the President and other subsidiary potentates for an evening of obligatory conviviality and moderate drinking. Once every decade or so, someone mistakenly makes news at the correspondents’ dinner by saying something ruthless and true about the President. Such was the case last year, when Stephen Colbert committed the sin of humor in the presence of President Bush. “I stand by this man,” Colbert said, gesturing toward Bush, who was on the dais a few feet away. “I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares.”

This year, no such insults will be directed at the President, because the correspondents’ association has hired as entertainment the impressionist Rich Little, who calls himself “basically a Republican,” and whose jokes are reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s, though without the edge.

"Basically a Republican." Is that the political equivalent to being a little bit pregnant?

See also, With Rich Little, Press Corps Is Assured a Nice Impression. Quoting Lewis Black, the Washington Post observes about Little:

As for Little's being hired this year by the White House Correspondents' Association, Black said: "It's like going from Jackson Pollock to paint-by-numbers. God love Rich Little, but he's not in this decade. He's in no position to pose any threat to anyone. He makes Bob Hope look like Lenny Bruce. It's sad that we've reached this point" with comedy as political expression.

And journalists wonder why they are their profession is less relevant to the public they are suppose to serve? Why bother when you're serving dried up comics -- and news?

(Video of Rich on Letterman available at Wonkette & Throw Away Your TV, which also has a clip of the "Don't Mention the War" scene from Fawlty Towers).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Justin Bilicki

It's Gotta Work

Congress voices its disapproval of Iraq war strategy with -- a non-binding resolution, via Jon Stewart & the Daily Show.

(Via onegoodmove)

Looking for Larry

The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News must have had a competition for the best Larry Charles headline.

Charles is the Philadelphia lawyer who was found naked with a 14 year old girl in a conference room at the Criminal Justice Center on Martin Luther King's day, as I wrote about in A Whole New Meaning.

The Inky's , Police on lookout for other assault victims of lawyer, is priceless. I could envision a line of people queuing outside the police station to complaint about bad encounters with lawyers.

The Daily News's version, Alleged perv lawyer returns and courthouse is abuzz, is pure Daily News -- "perv lawyer" says it all!

While I think the Inquirer's headline is the winner, the Daily News' column definitely takes the prize:

Larry Charles returned to the scene of the alleged crime yesterday.

This time, sheriff's deputies said, he was wearing clothes. A suit and tie, to be exact.

Less than a week after sheriff's deputies say they caught Charles buck-naked with a 14-year-old girl inside the Criminal Justice Center, the shamed defense attorney was back representing clients.

* * * *

Charles' courthouse appearance set off a buzz as everyone from clerks to cops phoned each other to report "Larry sightings." Even janitors were atwitter.

* * * *

Looking for Larry became something of a sport as the morning wore on. Another sheriff's deputy who got tipped off rushed to Room 705 for a sneak peek, only to be disappointed.

"I was told he was here," he said. "I missed him."

Quote of the Day

Bill Maher
Born: January 20, 1956

“We need more people speaking out. This country is not overrun with rebels and free thinkers. It's overrun with sheep and conformists.”

“When we talk about values, I think of rationality in solving problems. That’s something I value. Fairness, kindness, generosity, tolerance. When they talk about values, they’re talking about things like going to church, voting for Bush, being loyal to Jesus, praying. These are not values.”

Also see a recent op-ed piece by Bill Maher's in the Boston Globe, A re-look-see at the Constitution. His humor, as always, is pretty much on target.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Whistles Down the Track

In a recent Countdown episode, Keith Olbermann discusses the latest purging of U.S. Attorneys by Bush (which was accomplished with the help of PA's own Senator Arlen Specter), see One Down, One to Go, as well as the supposed concession by the Administration to give up its warrantless domestic surveillance program. See, e.g., More Power than Law. As GW University law professor Jonathan Turley said, these actions are signs that the Administration is hearing "whistles down the track" from Congress and the courts, for routinely and flagrantly violating the constitution, which the President took an oath to uphold.

As to the supposed agreement to comply with FISA, as reported by the NYTimes in White House Shifting Tactics in Spy Cases, I think I'll put that one in the "I'll believe it when I see it" category. But of course, the problem is that we're not allowed to see -- or know -- anything, so we'll never know. And trust me doesn't do it for me, credibility-wise. Turley calls the Administration's actions nothing more than a "gaming of the system" until the point that the Administration might be held responsible, at which point, they just change course. See also, Dick Polman's discussion at American Debate. Not surprisingly, since he's usually right on target, I'm with Polman on this one.

(Video via Throw away your TV)

Some Impertinent Questions

George McGovern has a few impertinent questions for President Bush.

The Nation has McGovern's remarks from a recent National Press Club talk, An Impartial Interrogation of George W. Bush. It is well worth the read -- in full. Referring to his days in the Senate, McGovern noted the storytelling technique of the Southern Democrats:

Once when Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina had to handle a tough question from Mike Mansfield, he said, "You know, Mr. Leader, that question reminds me of the old Baptist preacher who was telling a class of Sunday school boys the creation story. 'God created Adam and Eve and from this union came two sons, Cain and Abel and thus the human race developed.' A boy in the class then asked, 'Reverend, where did Cain and Abel get their wives?' After frowning for a moment, the preacher replied, 'Young man--it's impertinent questions like that that's hurtin' religion.'"

Well, Mr. Bush, Jr. I have some impertinent questions for you.

He follows with a series of about 12 extremely relevant, pertinent questions, starting with:
Mr. President, Sir, when reporter Bob Woodward asked you if you had consulted with your father before ordering our army into Iraq you said, "No, he's not the father you call on a decision like this. I talked to my heavenly Father above." My question, Mr. President: If God asked you to bombard, invade and occupy Iraq for four years, why did he send an opposite message to the Pope? Did you not know that your father, George Bush, Sr., his Secretary of State James Baker and his National Security Advisor General Scowcroft were all opposed to your invasion? Wouldn't you, our troops, the American people and the Iraqis all be much better off if you had listened to your more experienced elders including your earthly father? Instead of blaming God for the awful catastrophe you have unleashed in Iraq, wouldn't it have been less self-righteous if you had fallen back on the oft-quoted explanation of wrongdoing, "The devil made me do it?"
It's hard to choose which questions to excerpt. They all need to be read. Questions such as:
And Mr. President, how do you enjoy your leisure time, and how can you sleep at night knowing that 3,014 young Americans have died in a war you mistakenly ordered? What do you say to the 48,000 young Americans who have been crippled for life in mind or body? What is your reaction to the conclusion of the leading British medical journal (Lancet) that since you ordered the bombardment and occupation of Iraq four years ago, 600,000 Iraqi men, women and children have been killed? What do you think of the destruction of the Iraqi's homes, their electrical and water systems, their public buildings?

* * * *

Mr. President, I do not speak either as a pacifist or a draft dodger. I speak as one who after the attack on Pearl Harbor, volunteered at the age of nineteen for the Army Air Corps and flew thirty-five missions as a B-24 bomber. I believed in that war then and I still do sixty-five years later. And so did the rest of America. Mr. President, are you missing the intellectual and moral capacity to know the difference between a justified war and a war of folly in Vietnam or Iraq?

Public opinion polls indicate that two-thirds of the American people think that the war in Iraq has been a mistake on your part. It is widely believed that this war was the central reason Democrats captured control of both houses of Congress. Polls among the people of Iraq indicate that nearly all Iraqis want our military presence in their country for the last four years to end now. Why do you persist in defying public opinion in both the United States and Iraq and throughout the other countries around the globe? Do you see yourself as omniscient? What is your view of the doctrine of self-determination, which we Americans hold dear?

* * * *

Finally, Mr. President, I ask have you kept your oath of office to uphold the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to undermine the Bill of Rights? On what constitutional theory do you seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them in foreign jails? On what constitutional or legal basis have you tapped the phones of Americans without approval of the courts as required by law? Are you above the Constitution, above the law, and above the Geneva accords? If we are fighting for freedom in Iraq as you say, why are you so indifferent to protecting liberty here in America?
George McGovern was an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War and was the political casualty of another time when "liberal" was a dirty word. However, times change and his brand of politics is no longer out of vogue. For example, McGovern was the subject of an interesting piece last year in the American Conservative, Come Home, America, subtitled, Liberals need another George McGovern—and perhaps conservatives do too.

Yes, indeed.

Cartoon of the Day

* Drew Sheneman

Thursday, January 18, 2007

He Left Behind Joy

A favorite humorist, Art Buchwald, is dead at last. See NY Times, Art Buchwald, 81, Columnist and Humorist Who Delighted in the Absurd. He was like the Goodyear bunny -- he just kept going, even after the doctors gave him a few weeks to live almost a year ago.

As the Huffington Post recalls, R.I.P. Art Buchwald: Gently Into That Good Night, Finally:

[B]eloved Washington Post columnist, author, humorist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Buchwald has died at 81, after a long and protracted kidney illness that even he was surprised to have survived. Buchwald checked himself into a D.C. area hospice last February 2006, forgoing kidney dialysis and expecting to die any day — instead, his hospice room became a salon for the best and brightest (and funniest) of D.C.'s political and media elite, and he not only survived his health crisis but lived to return to his home on Martha's Vineyard, where he completed his final book, Too Soon To Say Goodbye, about his time in the hospice.
"For most people, dying is a milestone. For Buchwald, it was fresh material," is how the Washington Post, Humorist's Legacy Endures, described him, adding:
We've lost a great American Dreamer, the sort of self-invented, self-made success this country holds the patent on. Buchwald's adult life was an endless improvisation on American themes in both major and minor keys -- resourceful Ben Franklin on one shoulder, desperate Jay Gatsby on the other, fizzy with glamour today and dark with depression tomorrow.
Dan Rubin's blog provides the perfect touch, Art Buchwald, 1925-2007:
He gained attention in the 1950s when President Eisenhower's spokesman called a NATO press briefing to debunk one of the owlish writer's columns, denouncing it as "unadulterated rot."

What spokesman James Hagerty failed to understand was that the column was a spoof.

The writer replied, "Hagerty is wrong. I write adulterated rot."

He was once printed in more newspapers than any other columnist. His column explaining Thanksgiving to the French, is a holiday tradition in many families. He won a Pulitzer for commentary in 1982.

His line with the longest legs:

"If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it."
See also NPR, Columnist Art Buchwald Leaves Us Laughing, for a remembrance and links to interviews with Buchwald. NPR quotes:
Mike Wallace recently asked his friend about his legacy. "He virtually shouted it," Wallace recounted. "'Joy! That's what I'm going to leave behind.'"

One Down, One to Go

Until the voters finally came to their senses in the last election, Pennsylvania has had the misfortune to be represented by two Snakes as Senators.

One -- Rick Santorum -- has thankfully been displaced. His former hometown paper, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Santorum goes into the tank, described his new position in an amusing column:

[T]he think tank announced that as a senior fellow Mr. Santorum would be establishing and directing a program titled America's Enemies, which, as you know, is everybody who doesn't support President Bush.

No comedian could make up this assignment. In its irony and aptness, it is another proof that there is an Almighty and He has a sense of humor.

In this position, Mr. Santorum can come up with theories why America should be surging around the world smiting its enemies in a mad bid to alienate all its friends (by the way, "surge" is the word of the week -- it is the political contraction made by taking the "s" out of stupid and adding it to urge).

Although he may seem like a bottom feeder to some of his critics, Mr. Santorum will be in his element in the think thank, doing his blowfish impersonation of Winston Churchill warning of the gathering storm.
As for the other Pennsylvania Senator -- Arlen Specter -- it is only because Santorum was such a reactionary that Specter was not considered the worst of the two. Well, with Santorum gone, he now holds the #1 spot. He hasn't been called Chameleon, The Manchurian Senator, A Gutless Republican Worm and Wafflin' Arlen for nothing.

When he was reelected in 2004, he promised to maintain his "moderate, independent" position. See Did Arlen Specter lie in 2004 or is he just weak?. Right.

Well, as it turns out, Specter was the helping hand behind the recent purging of U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys Quit; Senator Blames Bush, that the Bush Administration has been engaged in. As reported by Paul Kiel, in TPM:
In order to replace several U.S. Attorneys with handpicked successors, the Bush Administration has relied on a tiny, obscure provision tucked into last year's USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act.

How did it get there?

Former Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) slipped the language into the bill at the very last minute, according to one of the Republican managers of the bill.

A spokesperson for Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who led the House team working on the bill, said that the provision was inserted by Specter into the final draft of the bill.

* * * *

According to the original law, the Attorney General could appoint interim U.S. Attorneys, but if they were not nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate within 120 days of being appointed, the federal district court would appoint a replacement. The new law wiped away that 120 day rule, in effect allowing the administration to handpick replacements and keep them there in perpetuity without the ordeal of Senate confirmation.

But amidst all the controversy last year over the PATRIOT reauthorization bill (the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, their use of National Security Letters to get information on citizens), the new law simply went unnoticed. Until now.

Specter has admitted his role, Update: Specter Admits Role in Expanding WH Powers, but, as Kiel noted in the follow up article:

Still, a mystery remains: Why Specter wanted the change, which arguably weakened the Senate's role in selecting federal prosecutors.

It's not such a mystery. In order to win the last election, he sold his soul. If he actually had one. After all, those names mentioned above were bestowed for a reason.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

Benjamin Franklin
Born January 17th, 1706

Anyone who trades liberty for security
deserves neither liberty nor security.

~ ~ ~ ~

Perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists, and does not seem to require so much an active energy, as a passive aptitude of the soul in order to encounter it. But error is endlessly diversified; it has no reality, but is the pure and simple creation of the mind that invents it. In this field the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities.

(Via My Left Wing)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Pay-off

Flying. The great crap shoot in the sky. When you go through the gates, you never know if you are going to get picked to be the terrorist target of the day. And now, in a twist of poetic justice, you just might hit the legal lottery if you're picked on.

The Boston Globe reports, in Jury awards airline passenger $400,000 , about a Portuguese man who was de-planed merely because he was seated next to 2 Israelis (who apparently had that terrorist look -- meaning they looked Arab), even though he did not know them. Even worse, he was then refused the right to reboard the plane after he was cleared by police.

Talk about being judged by the company you keep!

As the piece noted:
A federal jury has ordered American Airlines to pay $400,000 to a computer consultant who was pulled from a flight at Logan International Airport because of security concerns, then denied reboarding even after he had been cleared by State Police.

"I felt like I was being treated like a terrorist and there was no way I could prove I didn't do anything or say anything at all," said John Cerqueira . . . . "I'm grateful to the jury for sending the message to American Airlines that just the use of the word security isn't an excuse for unlawful behavior."

Cerqueira, who was born in Portugal and is a US citizen, was returning to Florida after spending Christmas with his family when he boarded a non stop flight to Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 28, 2003. But before takeoff, Cerqueira said, the flight crew called police because of concerns about two Middle Eastern passengers who were seated beside him.

Cerqueira said he didn't know the men, who were Israelis, but believes he was taken into custody with the men because he looked like them.

After State Police interrogated him for two hours, Cerqueira, a Stanford University graduate with a degree in international relations, said a trooper told him, "You're just the poor chap who got seated next to these two other guys."

Police determined that none of the men was a threat after questioning them, evacuating the plane, and rescreening all baggage. Yet, Cerqueira said that American Airlines refused to let him reboard that plane, or catch another flight, even though State Police assured the airline that he wasn't a threat.
Not only were there no apologies for this (mis)treatment, the pilots are angry at the verdict, according to the Boston Herald, Pilots blast court’s ‘outrageous’ verdict: Defend ejection of suspicious passenger, saying “Pilots have not forgotten” 9/11, said Capt. Denny Breslin, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. “It’s a sad day when you lose to political correctness.”

Political correctness? I guess under the new world order, discrimination is OK in the air, no matter what. See e.g. You Offend Me. Raising any objection to racial profiling (and doing a lousy job of it, I might add) is merely being PC?

And the complaints of the pilot ignore the fact that the airline denied him the right to re-board even once he was cleared after a security check. Still no civil rights? When do we get them back?

(Via AMERICAblog)

A Whole New Meaning

This item in the Philadelphia Inquirer gives a whole new meaning to the expression "Philadelphia Lawyer"!

The Inky article, Police: Phila. lawyer found naked with teen girl, reports:

A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer has been arrested after sheriff's deputies found him naked with a 14-year-old girl in a conference room at the Criminal Justice Center, police said today.

Larry Charles, 49, has been charged with solicitation and attempted statutory sexual assault, said Lt. Dan Bagnell of the Special Victims Unit.

Bagnell said sheriff's officers found Charles and the girl, with whom he has a "family relationship," in a third-floor conference room yesterday.

Of course, since with was Martin Luther King day, the Criminal Justice Center was closed. Must be his own version of a King Day of Service.

Apparently, Charles has also honored the legal profession before. According to the Fox News report on the incident:

Charles' law license was suspended following his no-contest plea in September 1990 to tampering with public records. Prosecutors alleged he and several others filed false wage claims while they worked for a youth program under contract with the city between 1986 and 1988.

His license was reinstated in 1996, according to the state Supreme Court's disciplinary board.
He must be a proponent of the try, try again philosophy of law.

UPDATE (1/17): An updated version of Inquirer's article is here: Deputy finds lawyer unclothed with girl, 14.

And of course, this is really the type of story made for the Daily News: Lawyer found naked with girl.

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