Sunday, December 31, 2006
Unhappy New Year
For someone as old and decrepit as I am, New Year's Eve isn't quite the thrill it used to be. And frankly it was a dud as often as not even when I wasn't old and decrepit. Nowadays I tend to stay home and watch movies (since everything on television is unwatchable on this night for some reason) and I really don't like crowds anymore.
(I might have just the tiniest skosh of champagne in a gorgeous glass. Here's to you, Judy!)
If you have any regrets about not attending some fab event tonight, I recommend watching these classic movies --- which feature two very, very bad New Year's parties.
and this one:
I've had some extremely disappointing New Year's eves in my life but nothing like those.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Update: My commenters (including the director of the fine film Red State) reminds me that The Twilight ZZone marathon is on the Sci-fi channel --- definitely heads and shoulders above the usual New Years Eve fare. If you don't have Sci-fi channel you can watch New Years Rockin' Eve which is kind of like The Twilight Zone only not clever or interesting.
Unknown 12/31/2006 05:00:00 PM
I had read about this nonsense before, but the whole story hadn't emerged. This is dipshit America in a nutshell:
KATY, Texas (AP) -- A man unhappy with an Islamic association's plans to build a mosque next to his property has staged pig races as a protest during afternoon prayers.
Craig Baker, 46, sold merchandise and grilled sausages Friday for about 100 people who showed up in heavy rain. He insisted he wasn't trying to offend anyone with the pigs, which are forbidden from the Muslim diet.
"I am just defending my rights and my property," Baker said. "They totally disrespected me and my family."
Muslims don't hate pigs, they just don't eat them, said engineer Kamel Fotouh, president of the 500-member Katy Islamic Association in this Houston suburb.
"I don't care if he races, roasts or slaughters pigs," said Yousef Allam, a spokesman for the group.
The dispute began when the association asked Baker to remove his cattle from its newly bought land. The association plans to build a mosque, community center, athletic facilities and a school.
Baker agreed to move his cattle but thought the Muslims also wanted him off the land his family has lived on for more than 100 years.
Earlier this month, Baker conceded that the Muslims probably aren't after his land, but he said he had to go through with the pig races because "I would be like a total idiot if I didn't. I'd be the laughingstock now because I've gone too far."
All the same, Baker plans to continue the weekly pig races until interest dwindles.
The association never meant to imply it wanted Baker to move, Allam said.
"If we somehow communicated that to him, then we apologize," he said.
Resident Susan Canavespe said the pig racing wasn't mean-spirited -- "It's just Texas-spirited."
Good thing we're exporting our superior civilization and culture all over the world, huh? I can't imagine why they aren't more grateful.
Update: Speaking of pigs, a reader reminds me of this earlier embarrassment:
"I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig," Bush said at a news conference earlier in the day punctuated with questions about spreading violence in the Middle East and an intensifying standoff with Iran about nuclear power.
The president's host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, started a serious ball rolling at this news conference in the 13th-century town hall on the cobblestone square of Stralsund. But Bush seemed more focused on "the feast" promised later.
"Thanks for having me," Bush told the chancellor. "I'm looking forward to that pig tonight."
"Apart from the pig, Mr. President, what sort of insights have you been able to gain as regards East Germany?" a German reporter asked.
"I haven't seen the pig yet," Bush said, sidestepping the question about insights gained from his two-day visit to this rural seaside region that once rested behind the Iron Curtain.
And when an American reporter asked whether Bush is concerned about the Israeli bombing of the Beirut airport and about Iran's failure to respond to an offer for negotiations, Bush replied with more boar jokes before delving into the substance of the questions.
"I thought you were going to ask about the pig," said the president. "I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow."
Unknown 12/31/2006 10:46:00 AM
It was interesting listening to Dick Cheney pay tribute to Gerald Ford for his civility yesterday at the memorial service. He said "he answered courtesy with courtesy and discourtesy with courtesy."
As I'm sure you've all noticed, Republicans are talking about civility almost non-stop these days and so is the media. Everyone agrees that now that the Democrats won it's time to bind the nation's wounds once again and move into the future without dwelling on past unpleasantness. The Dems need to learn some of that Ford Administration courtesy:
On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.
"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.
Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, yesterday confirmed the brief but fierce exchange. "The vice president seemed to be taking personally the criticism that Senator Leahy and others have leveled against Halliburton's sole-source contracts in Iraq," Carle said.
As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.
Cheney's office did not deny that the phrase was uttered. His spokesman, Kevin S. Kellems, would say only that this language is not typical of the vice presidential vocabulary. "Reserving the right to revise and extend my remarks, that doesn't sound like language the vice president would use," Kellems said, "but there was a frank exchange of views."
Gleeful Democrats pointed out that the White House has not always been so forgiving of obscenity. In December, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry was quoted using the same word in describing Bush's Iraq policy as botched. The president's chief of staff reacted with indignation.
"That's beneath John Kerry," Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said. "I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language. I'm hoping that he's apologizing at least to himself, because that's not the John Kerry that I know."
Tuesday's exchange began when Leahy crossed the aisle at the photo session and joked to Cheney about being on the Republican side, according to Carle. Then Cheney, according to Carle, "lashed into" Leahy for remarks he made Monday criticizing Iraq contracts won without competitive bidding by Halliburton, Cheney's former employer.
Republicans did their best to defend the vice president. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), while pointing out that he was unaware of the incident, described Cheney as "very honest" and said: "I don't blame anyone for standing up for his integrity."
As Cheney said of Ford, "there are worse things to be remembered for than your capacity to forgive," which is really moving coming from an honest, courteous, man of integrity like him. Surely we can do no less than Ford did and give a blanket pardon to the Republicans for their truly egregious, illegal behavior once again. Isn't that how it works?
BTW: Did anyone notice that Junior apparently can't bring himself to cut short his vacation to attend these various state funeral ceremonies? He'll roll back into town on Tuesday for the big one. He's tired. He spent three whole hours talking with his advisors about Iraq.
Unknown 12/31/2006 09:57:00 AM
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Saturday Night At The Movies
Crossover Dreams: Borderline Cinema
By Dennis Hartley
The spirit of Sam Peckinpah lives on (sans slo-mo) in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. First-time director Tommy Lee Jones casts himself as a contemporary Texas cowboy named Pete who befriends a Mexican “vaquero” (the namesake of the movie’s title). Estrada is an illegal looking for steady work and a brighter future here in the land o’plenty. Jones utilizes flashbacks to illustrate the growing kinship between the two compadres, who bond in the usual “cowboy way”-drinkin’ and whorin’, sleeping under the stars, and reaching a general consensus that A Cowboy’s Life Is The Life For Me (as a great man once sang.) In the key vignette, Estrada confides that, if “something” should ever happen to him, he wishes to be buried in his home town. In half-drunken sentiment, Pete vows to see it through if the unthinkable happens. Guess what happens next?
When Estrada is mysteriously killed, Pete becomes incensed by the indifference of the local authorities, who seem reluctant to investigate. When he learns through the grapevine that his friend was the victim of negligent homicide, thanks to a boneheaded border patrol officer (Barry Pepper), he goes ballistic. He abducts the officer, forces him to dig up the hastily buried Estrada, and informs him that the three amigos are taking a little horseback trip to Mexico (and it ain’t gonna be anything like Weekend at Bernie’s).
Much unpleasantness ensues as the story evolves into a “man on a mission to fulfill an oath” tale…on the surface. Despite the simplistic setup, astute viewers will begin to realize that there is a deeper, mythic subtext; this is one of those films that can really sneak up on you. Although my initial reaction was more visceral than philosophical (I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable, it started to feel overlong, and I was repulsed by some of the more graphic scenes) I eventually realized that I had just been taken on an Orphic journey, and it suddenly all made sense. The film gives you hope that, despite the rampant cynicism that abounds in this world, there is something to be said for holding true to a personal code that covets friendship, loyalty and a deep sense of honor.
In today’s climate of post 9/11 paranoia, and self-appointed “minutemen” who “guard” our borders, it’s a damn shame more Americans haven’t seen the 1983 “American Playhouse” drama El Norte, which is only available on Australian PAL DVD (Wha?!). Gregory Nava’s highly effective portrait of two Guatemalan siblings wending their way to the U.S. after their activist father is killed by a government death squad will stay with you long after credits roll. The two leads give naturalistic, completely believable performances as the brother and sister whose desperate optimism never falters, despite fate and circumstance thwarting them at every turn. Claustrophobic viewers be warned: a harrowing scene featuring an encounter with a roving rat colony during an underground border crossing though an abandoned sewer will give you nightmares. And don’t expect a Hollywood ending-this is tough going but thoroughly enlightening. Worth tracking down.
It’s a Lou Dobbs film festival! Try these: Maria Full of Grace, The Border, Lone Star, Touch of Evil, Border Incident.
On the lighter side: Born In East L.A.
R.I.P. Peter Boyle
According to the perfunctory news obits that aired recently, one might get the impression that the only claims to fame for the late Peter Boyle were his roles in Young Frankenstein, Taxi Driver and on TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond. He may not have been a big marquee name, and may have made a few ill-advised career moves (Where the Buffalo Roam comes to mind) but he was a dependable character actor who always left an indelible impression. Here is some of the Boyle legacy worth revisiting:
Joe-Although the socio-political rhetoric in this 1970 sleeper hasn’t dated so well, this was the starring role that first put Boyle on the map.
The Candidate-Boyle is in top form here as Robert Redford’s savvy political campaign advisor. Boyle delivers a number of wonderfully droll asides with perfect timing.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (TV only)-A tough, realistic 1973 noir that cries out for a DVD release. Robert Mitchum stars, but Boyle excels as a two-faced, low-rent hit man.
Death and the Compass-This obscure crime thriller (set in a dystopian future) from director Alex Cox is a hit-and-miss affair, but Boyle’s intriguing character fascinates.
The X-Files - The Complete Third Season (Slim Set)-Worth renting just to watch the episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”, a fan favorite that spotlights a memorable Boyle performance.
Unknown 12/30/2006 07:57:00 PM
More Fun With Herblock
We posted this a year ago and I thought anyone who missed it might enjoy the not-so-instant replay. I wrote it in response to some smartass on another blog who claimed that Bush wasn't the first prezninent to claim the right of extra-legal power in order to wiretap the citizens.
You are absolutely right to point out that Bush is not the first president to use the wiretap illegally. At least one past president confronted matters of grave national security by shifting the legal locus of control to his own domain. He understood how secret spy programs were necessary to preserve this great nation of his. He believed that citizens would willfully surrender their liberties to him, and he knew the threat constituted by a hostile media, and he knew what to do about it. He also understood how to make a nation of bedwetters feel more secure. But his theory died when an activist judge ruled against the argument of executive privilege, a ruling which was later upheld by the Supreme Court. By then, what might be called ‘harangue fatigue’ was creeping into the American living room and, frankly, people were sensing that they had reached their limit.
All of which now necessitates an illusory extra-legal theory in regard to what the founders really meant when they designed our system of government. Let’s call it -- 'The Separation of Powers, Except' -- clause to the Constitution. Naturally, it would tip off the enemy if this extra-legal power was stated directly in the Constitution, so what the founders did was they cloaked it in mysterious ambiguity so only a future right-wing ideologue could detect its presence. But make no doubt about it, as a previous Chief Executive had ascertained, a very close reading of the Constitution shows the founders' original intent, and it was as plain as the ski-nose on his face. It really does give the president extra-legal power, in spite of what the courts ruled.
poputonian 12/30/2006 06:36:00 PM
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
UK NAME NOT RELEASED YET Basra - Basrah Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (north of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Edward W. Shaffer Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Christopher Esckelson Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Lance Corporal William C. Koprince Jr. Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
LAT dižkareivis Vitalijs Vasiljevs Diwaniyah (near) - Qadisiyah Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
LAT dižkareivis Gints Bleija Diwaniyah (near) - Qadisiyah Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Douglas L. Tinsley Baghdad (South of) - Babil Non-hostile - vehicle rollover
US Specialist Joseph A. Strong Baghdad (South of) - Babil Non-hostile - vehicle rollover
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (northwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (northwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Baghdad (northwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Joshua M. Schmitz Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Sergeant John T. Bubeck Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Captain Hayes Clayton Balad - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant 1st Class Dexter E. Wheelous Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Jae S. Moon Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private Eric R. Wilkus Landstuhl Reg. Med. Ctr. - Baghdad Non-hostile
US Specialist Aaron L. Preston Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private 1st Class Andrew H. Nelson Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Jason C. Denfrund Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private Evan A. Bixler Hit - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
US Lance Corporal Stephen L. Morris Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Michael J. Crutchfield Balad (Camp Anaconda) - Salah ad Din Non-hostile
US Specialist John Barta Buhritz - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
US Specialist Chad J. Vollmer Salman Pak - Babil Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private 1st Class Wilson A. Algrim Salman Pak - Babil Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private Bobby Mejia II Salman Pak - Babil Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Curtis L. Norris Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Elias Elias Baghdad (southwest of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Joshua D. Sheppard Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Lance Corporal Fernando S. Tamayo Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Lance Corporal Ryan J. Burgess Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Lance Corporal Ryan L. Mayhan Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Hospitalman Kyle A. Nolen Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Lance Corporal Myles Cody Sebastien Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Specialist Scott D. Dykman Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Staff Sergeant Jacob G. McMillan Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, IED
US Specialist Robert J. Volker Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US NAME NOT RELEASED YET Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Specialist Andrew P. Daul Hit - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Joshua D. Pickard Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Captain Kevin M. Kryst Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire - mortar attack
US Staff Sergeant Brian L. Mintzlaff Taji - Baghdad Non-hostile - vehicle rollover
US Private 1st Class Seth M. Stanton Taji (Died in Balad) - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Lance Corporal Nick J. Palmer Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - sniper fire
US Private 1st Class Joe L. Baines Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Staff Sergeant David R. Staats Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Matthew J. Stanley Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Staff Sergeant Henry K. Kahalewai Brooke Army Med Center, TX - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private 1st Class Paul Balint Jr. Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Staff Sergeant Theodore A. Spatol Thermopolis Non-hostile - illness
US Lance Corporal Luke C. Yepsen Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Lance Corporal Matthew W. Clark Albu Hayatt - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Major Gloria D. Davis Baghdad Non-hostile
US Sergeant Brent W. Dunkleberger Mosul - Ninawa Hostile - hostile fire - RPG attack
US Lance Corporal Budd M. Cote Khaldiyah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Matthew V. Dillon Khaldiyah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Lance Corporal Clinton J. Miller Khaldiyah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Master Sergeant Brian P. McAnulty Al Anbar Province Non-hostile - helicopter crash
US Staff Sergeant Thomas W. Clemons Diwaniyah (near) - Qadisiyah Non-hostile - illness - heart attack
US Private 1st Class Shawn M. Murphy Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Philip C. Ford Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Brennan C. Gibson Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Nicholas P. Steinbacher Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US 1st Lieutenant Nathan M. Krissoff Al Taqaddum - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Lance Corporal Brent E. Beeler Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire
US Staff Sergeant Henry W. Linck Baghdad (South of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Micah S. Gifford Baghdad (South of) Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Staff Sergeant Kristofer R. Ciraso Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Nicholas R. Gibbs Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Lance Corporal Cody G. Watson Fallujah - Anbar Non-hostile
US Sergeant Yevgeniy Ryndych Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Private 1st Class Travis C. Krege Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Yari Mokri Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Jason Huffman Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Jesse J.J. Castro Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Joshua B. Madden Hawijah - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Captain Travis L. Patriquin Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Vincent J. Pomante III Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Dustin J. Libby Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Major Megan M. McClung Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Jordan W. Hess Brooke Army Med Center, TX - At-Ta'mim Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Marco L. Miller Landstuhl Reg. Med. Ctr. - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
US Private 1st Class Roger A. Suarez-Gonzalez Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Private 1st Class Albert M. Nelson Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
US Lance Corporal Thomas P. Echols Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire
US Hospitalman Christopher A. Anderson Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire
US Sergeant Jay R. Gauthreaux Ba'qubah (died in Balad) - Diyala Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Nicholas D. Turcotte An Nasiriyah - Dhi Qar Non-hostile - vehicle accident
US Private Ross A. McGinnis Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - grenade
US Specialist Dustin M. Adkins Haditha - Anbar Non-hostile - helicopter crash
US Captain Shawn L. English Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Joshua C. Sticklen Haditha - Anbar Non-hostile - helicopter crash
US Major Joseph Trane McCloud Haditha - Anbar Non-hostile - helicopter crash
US Captain Kermit O. Evans Haditha - Anbar Non-hostile - helicopter crash
US Private Troy D. Cooper Balad - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Kenneth W. Haines Abu Hishma (died in Balad) - Salah ad Din Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Corporal Billy B. Farris Taji - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Lance Corporal Jesse D. Tillery Al Anbar Province Hostile - hostile fire
US Specialist Corey J. Rystad Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Specialist Bryan T. McDonough Fallujah - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Sergeant Keith E. Fiscus Taji (near) - Baghdad Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
US Staff Sergeant Robert L. Love Jr. Ramadi - Anbar Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Total 110 | US: 107 | UK: 1 | Other: 2
In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term. The daily scenes of death and destruction are heartbreaking and infuriating. But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home. Joseph Lieberman
Very brave, Joe. Very inspiring. We'll all try to contain our "handwringing, carping and calls for withdrawal" as we view the "infuriating" scenes of "death and destruction" ... and that list of names of our fellow Americans. Instead, we'll all clap our hands and join you in Neverland.
Unknown 12/30/2006 04:20:00 PM
In the early days of the war you'll recall that there were a spate of beheadings in Iraq which were videotaped and circulated on the internet. I stupidly watched one of them and wrote:
I watched the video of Berg's beheading and it literally made me sick to my stomach. Do not watch it. It's a barbaric, horrible display of inhumanity. I wish I hadn't seen it. I'll never forget it.
I'm sure the same people who couldn't stop watching that footage --- ostensibly because they were outraged by the atrocity --- are enjoying this footage of Saddam going to his death today. They aren't all that different. There's the same sense of frenetic excitement among the executioners, the same vivid emotion, the same fear in the soon to be executed man's face. I'm hard pressed to say how that kangaroo court and this rushed, chaotic execution represents something so different. Saddam was undoubtedly a guilty man --- but the execution was done with the same symbolic purpose --- and in much the same style --- as those psychos who executed Nick Berg on camera and then ghoulishly passed around the video to make their political point.
This video illuminates what I hate about the death penalty. In my name, whether just or unjust, the state is killing another human being, not in self defense or in the process of a (just) war. It is done with the prisoner completely helpless, tied down and knowing he is about to be killed. Regardless of whether that person deserves to die or not, the state (us) becomes a pre-meditated, cold-blooded murderer when we do it. Two wrongs don't make a right and all that.
This half-assed, jailhouse execution by what appear to be a bunch of random thugs in leather jackets and black hoods milling around the prisoner, puts the final coda to our pretentions of helping the Iraqis build a civilized society.
Unknown 12/30/2006 10:41:00 AM
What Is A Lynching?
Hear about it from an eighty-six year old with a PhD in Humanities. He was at this scene in Marion, Indiana on August 6, 1930. (NOTE: The audio does not contain graphic detail, but is a very moving testimonial.)
poputonian 12/30/2006 07:41:00 AM
Friday, December 29, 2006
Saving Us From Ourselves
A reader reminded me that Atrios wrote this other other day and I think it's worth discussing a little bit more:
As Yglesias says, the only alternative to a full and blanket pardon wasn't putting Nixon in chains, though that was a possibility. The important thing was to find out the truth. Our elites repeatedly redefine "getting past it" as "sweeping it under the rug" based on their apparent opinion of themselves as necessary moral and spiritual leaders for the riffraff. If they are revealed to be greatly flawed then without them as a shining beacon to light the way the riffraff will go astray and the country will collapse.
They are our betters and we need them they think, and so their class must be preserved even if the occasional unpleasantness must be swept under the rug.
There is a very recent example of that very thing. On election night 2000 as the CNN crew sat in the studio discussing whether Al Gore was going to retract his concession, what comes out of John King's mouth?
SHAW: Were I Al Gore, I don't think I'd be that terribly much in a hurry to rush out there and make the concession. This has to be one of the most difficult things in this man's life.
KING: Intensely frustrating. You know, historically, when Richard Nixon lost in 1960, he was urged by many people to challenge the vote in Illinois. And he decided in the end not to do it because he said he didn't want to create a constitutional crisis.
Yes, that good man Richard Nixon waa a big enough man to spare the country such an ordeal. Would Al Gore do the same?
The next day:
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Gore campaign points to the highly unlikely results in Palm Beach County, Florida, which suggests a high level of voter confusion over the ballot. Florida has already undertaken a recount as required by law when the results are so close. If the Gore campaign undertakes a legal challenge to the results in Florida, that could open the floodgates to legal challenges by the Bush campaign all over the country.
SCHNEIDER: What we are seeing is a dangerous politicization of the vote-counting process. Each candidate has to ask himself: How much is winning this election really worth? Is it worth creating a constitutional crisis? Is it worth undermining your ability to unite the country?
Soon, we had this:
The Bush administration argued from the beginning that: "Further recounts could unnecessarily delay the elections process, potentially leading to a federal constitutional crisis."
A week later, we had worked our way up to this:
WOODRUFF: Well, it has been a full week since Election Day and there is still no official word on the winner. Coming up, our Jeff Greenfield takes on the question of whether Election 2000 has reached crisis stage.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: "Constitutional crisis." It's a tempting phrase to utter. It carries with it its own sense of importance, like "defining moment." But is this a crisis? Could it turn into one? Well, to use another tempting phrase, it depends upon what the meaning of crisis is.
(voice-over): Now here's a real crisis in the making. October, 1973: President Nixon fires Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the midst of his investigation into Watergate. The attorney general and his top deputy leave rather than fire Cox. Federal agents seal off the special prosecutor's office. Could a president shut off an inquiry into his own behavior? It didn't happen.
A firestorm of public pressure forced Nixon to name a successor, Leon Jaworski, who demanded of Nixon those famous secret tape recordings. And that could have triggered a real constitutional crisis when a unanimous Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes. Suppose he had refused. One branch of government defying the order of another. But it didn't happen. Nixon turned the tapes over. The smoking gun of a cover-up was disclosed and the president resigned.
But this? Not even close, yet. What you have so far is the messy, inefficient business of vote counts. Instead of troops in the capitol, you've got lawyers in the courts. Instead of mobs in the street, street theater, and folks with a little too much time on their hands.
(on camera): So, could this turn into a crisis? Of course we're not talking about anyone seizing political power or some adversary from abroad sailing up the Potomac, but we could be talking about a transfer of power tainted by charges of foul play.
An angry challenge to the electoral vote when the new Congress convenes in January; a bitter refusal of the losing side to acknowledge the victor's right to govern; a new Congress that, for all the talk of cooperation, is frozen into inaction by a sense of icy bitterness that's grown over the past 20 years.
A crisis? Maybe not. But as an unhappy ending to the end of all of this, that will do.
Oh my God! Finally this:
SIMON: But back to this question about frenzy and orgy. I think really the one phrase that is overused and seriously overused by the media is constitutional crisis.
SIMON: We do not have a constitutional crisis. A constitutional crisis...
KURTZ: We could have one by Tuesday.
SIMON: ... No we won't. A constitutional crisis is that one of these guys, Bush or Gore, says, "I'm not listening to the Supreme Court. I'm showing up on January 20. And everyone who believes in me show up with me."
SIMON: If Nixon hadn't turned over the tapes, that's a constitutional crisis. Everybody here is following the rule of law. It is the opposite of a crisis.
EDWARDS: Well, I'd like to disagree a little bit...
KURTZ: ... go ahead, Tamala.
EDWARDS: ... first of all to your point about television and do we have a medium that's fast enough? To pick up Wayne's point about "Pulp Fiction." I'll just take the soundtrack. I think if we had some great music, that would make this better.
But in terms of constitutional crisis, I agree. I think that was overused and was used very quickly. But I do think that we're starting to get to that point. What happens if we have a court sanctioned set of Gore electors and a legislative set of Bush electors? What do we do? That's a crisis.
It became an article of faith that if this "went on too long" the country would fall apart and blood would run in the streets as the rabble completely lost its collective mind and stormed the castle. The wisemen had to END THIS NOW. We just couldn't take a chance on counting all the votes. It was much too dangerous.
The Supreme Court took exactly that tack with one of the most egregious decisions in the nation's history. Judge Gerald Posner even said that they were right to do it because if Gore had won the recount Tom Delay would have refused to acknowledge his electors and we would have had ... a constitutional crisis.
The elites are always protecting us against the rabble, but they never quite say who that rabble is, exactly. Nowadays, it's pretty clear, isn't it? There were Freepers standing outside the vice presidential residence screaming "get out of Cheney's house" throughout the recount. Roger Stone was down there in Florida getting ready to call in the Cuban Community and unleash the dirty tricks squad. The "bourgoeis riot" was just a little taste of what was to come. So, it's pretty clear what the crisis was that the pundits and the political establishment were so keen to save us from --- the crisis that would ensue if the impeaching, undemocratic, rabid Republican thugs were denied their victory. Don't make trouble. Everything will be fine. We know these people. They're the grown-ups.
The political and media establishment does not trust the constitution or the people, it's that simple.
After all was said and done, Jon Stewart said it best:
LARRY KING: OK, what happens if the meddlesome "Miami Herald," say in January brings forth its own vote and then tabulates it and shows you here's what the dimples were, here's what the chads were, and in one of them, Gore won? Would that cause a crisis then?
STEWART: Absolutely a crisis.
KING: And what would happen?
STEWART: The same crisis -- nothing would happen. He'd be the president in the same way that Clinton got impeached, he was still the president. We're not a nation on the precipice of any constitutional disaster other than -- you know what we have? We have a pundit disaster. We're out of pundits. They've been used up now, and they have nothing left to say.
Oh, one more thing. Let's not forget that there was one Democratic moron who decided to further the GOP and media "crisis" meme in the lamest way possible:
LIEBERMAN: This action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word.
With candidates like these...
Unknown 12/29/2006 05:14:00 PM
Hang 'Em High
I'm not going to lose any sleep over Saddam Hussein's death but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the US had behaved like a world leader and sent him to be tried in the International Criminal Court instead of having the "Iraqi government" (which clearly has no real legal system) stage a show trial and now execute him in the middle of a civil war.
Call me crazy but it just seems to me that would have shown that we care about the rule of law and removed the festering wound of Saddam from the workings of the current government which was bound to exacerbate the sectarian hatreds. Of course, that would have meant that the Iraqi government was a paper tiger and it was very important to the Republicans that they be able to wave their purple fingers in everyone's faces.
But I'm sure Bush will have a very serious press conference in which he will state that "the tyrant has been brought to justice" (mark my words) which is what's important.
And hey, they just got to put out a terror alert. The Baathists are coming! Run for your lives!
Unknown 12/29/2006 02:23:00 PM
During those horrible early days after hurricane Katrina hit, I'm sure you remember the endless stories of looters and thugs and criminal gangs roaming the streets terrorizing the population. The right wing blogs had a lot to say on the subject.
There was one incident in particular that seemed to grab the imagination of the rightwingers. It was reported on all the cable news networks and inspired many blog posts like this one:
Did New Orleans police shoot and kill contractors who were walking across a bridge to inspect and seek to fix the broken levee, or did they kill those who had fired on the contractors? A few hours ago, news services and networks reported that five or six contractors had been shot and killed by the NOPD. Shortly thereafter, news services reported that the NOPD had actually shot “thugs” as a (Fox News host described them) who had fired on the contractors.
I do not know what happened, and am not assuming that the revised story is the true one. This is the first time I have heard of police or National Guard soldiers shooting anyone. For days, I have heard stories of black criminals firing on rescue crews in helicopters and boats, on police, and shooting and bludgeoning National Guard troops. One National Guardette ran away from the armed criminal who had hit her over the head with a pipe, and had shot her comrade. Did the Guardette even have a loaded weapon?
My expectation was that the police or soldiers would shoot a non-violent white or Asian, before they would shoot an ultraviolent black, but I was beaten to the punch by blogger Zach at Our Way of Life, who predicted Friday,
“If anybody gets shot for looting, they will be white or asian. Just remember you heard it here first.”
The current report on the bridge shooting at Fox News is only 14 words long.
“Hurricane relief efforts turn toward the gathering of bodies; police report shooting eight armed men on New Orleans bridge, killing at least five.”
In what sort of hellholes do people try to murder rescue crews, and people trying to fix broken levees? In America’s third world cities, that’s where. In the South Bronx in New York City, twenty years ago, Hispanic thugs used to attack fire engines speeding to put out fires with Molotov cocktails. Of course, it was white men putting their lives on the line to save Hispanics and blacks. Just like in New Orleans these days, apparently.
Considering how the mainstream media are doing their best to suppress the stories from coming out of New Orleans, I wonder if we’ll ever find out anything approaching the whole sordid truth.
It was my opinion at the time that this kind of hysterical, racist talk contributed greatly to the delayed response. (The beasts were taking over!)
I don't know if the "sordid truth" of this incident will ever fully be known either. But a New Orleans grand jury believed there was enough evidence to indict several policemen for murder yesterday:
Four New Orleans police officers have been charged with murder in connection with two fatal shootings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year.
Three more officers were charged with attempted murder for the shootings, which also left four people wounded.
The incident on the Danziger Bridge, linking two mainly black, flooded neighbourhoods, came six days after the hurricane left New Orleans in chaos.
Defence lawyers say their clients are innocent of the charges
It was a mess in New Orleans those first few days. I'm sure there was plenty of violence and mayhem. But the media and particularly the fevered right wing media were all too willing to believe even the most ridiculous tales and they spread them with a glee usually reserved for presidential sexual indiscretions. They bear some responsibility for what happened.
And I'm still waiting to hear the whole sordid explanation behind the other infamous Katrina "bridge" story.
Update: NPR did a story recently on the Danziger bridge incident. Perhaps the trial will shed more light on the subject.
Unknown 12/29/2006 02:00:00 PM
The truly disorienting thing about the bizarro world these people have created is that they actually believe the Republicans tried to "reach out and remain bipartisan" and the Democrats are ruthless operators who go for trhe jugular ( while also being cowardly wimps who can't defend the country.)
I think this might be the best example of their "bipartisan style:"
"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."
Unknown 12/29/2006 01:15:00 PM
TBOGG notices that the rightwing is lying by sending out bogus e-mails and pictures. I know it's shocking. Who would have ever thought they would do such a thing?
I have a question, though. The second item he mentions is an e-mail allegedly from a current soldier in Iraq that found its way to The Corner --- only to be revealed to have been circulating for years. I'm just curious. I'm on a lot of email lists; how come I never get anything like this. The right's always got some crap making the rounds --- tales of liberal satan worship or the "historical document" that nobody's ever heard of proving that Thomas Jefferson was an evangelical preacher. You know the kind.
Why is it that liberals don't have anything like this? Even assuming we didn't send around completely unbelievable horseshit that anyone with an 6th grade education would see through, wouldn't it be a good thing to have the capacity to circulate true information? How do they do it?
Unknown 12/29/2006 12:30:00 PM
Who's Your Daddy?
Here's an interesting little tid-bit. Four of the most popular posts of the year were by Crook and Liars. In fact, the most popular political post of the year was C&L's post of the Stephen Colbert White House Correspondent's dinner. And the second most popular was C&L's post of Keith Olbermann's Rumsfeld commentary.
What a nice little bit of liberal synergy that is --- the blogosphere, the alternative cable media and video blogging. C&L's been ahead of the curve on all this from the beginning.
John Amato --- Blogger of the year?
For more on the current state of the blogosphere, check out David Sifry's most recent Technorati report.
Unknown 12/29/2006 10:58:00 AM
The New Iraq Policy: They're Talking Into "It"
In 1869, Henry Adams said:
For stretches of time, [the President's] mind seemed torpid. [The Secretary of War] and the others would systematically talk their ideas into it, for weeks, not directly, but by discussion among themselves, in his presence. In the end, he would announce the idea as his own, without seeming conscious of the discussion; and would give the orders to carry it out with all the energy that belonged to his nature. They could never measure his character or be sure when he would act. They could never follow a mental process in his thought. They were not sure that he did think.
Yesterday, it was reported:
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.
See first entry. Sometimes these things take weeks.
(h/t Quiddity for the AP report.)
poputonian 12/29/2006 08:08:00 AM
Matchmaker Made In Heaven?
In American politics, successfully threading religion through a needle is no easy task, and Barack Obama, in my opinion, missed the eye-hole in his earlier attempts to accomplish that feat. I criticized him back in July for suggesting that young, impressionable minds are unaffected when adult authorities make them stand and perform quasi-religious pledge rituals. I still believe Obama was wrong in what he said.
However, if the Democrats want to field a candidate in 2008, some compromises will have to be made, and based on something I learned yesterday, via Matthew Yglesias, the above might be the area where I'll make mine. I'm not there yet, but peace is certainly a higher priority today than the pledge, and it was important good news yesterday to hear that Samantha Power was working with Barack Obama:
Obama Shapes an Agenda Beyond Iraq War
Key advisers in Mr. Obama's foreign policy orbit include Ms. Rice; a Pulitzer Prize-winning anti-genocide activist, Samantha Power; a national security adviser to Mr. Clinton, Anthony Lake, and Senator Obama's foreign policy staffer, Mark Lippert.
Ms. Rice, who now works at the Brookings Institution, is unabashed about her views on a potential Obama presidency. "I think he'd be excellent," she said.
However, Ms. Power, who took leave from Harvard's Kennedy School last year to work in the senator's office, may be the foreign policy specialist campaigning most publicly on Mr. Obama's behalf. During a speech last month at Northwestern University, she spoke of what a "President Obama" might do and sowed doubts about two of his potential primary opponents, Senator Clinton and the Democratic nominee in 2004, Senator Kerry of Massachusetts.
"Hillary Clinton came out about two-and-a-half, three weeks ago and endorsed the president's position on coercive interrogation techniques, not McCain's position, distinguishing herself from McCain, perhaps with 2008 in mind," Ms. Power said. She also faulted Mr. Kerry for failing, during his debates with Mr. Bush, to mention the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A columnist for Time magazine, Joe Klein, has reported that Mr. Kerry made the decision based on focus groups his campaign conducted. "The answer came back, ‘It's not a winner politically,'" Ms. Power said.
Recall that Ms. Power was an advocate and force behind the candidacy of Wesley Clark. She was also the counterweight to a character attack made on Clark by former General Hugh Shelton, who just happened to be on John Edwards' payroll at the time. Back in 2003, I wrote the following on that topic:
Shelton's smear of Clark can be juxtaposed with something written about Clark before he entered politics. This view of Clark is given by Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide." Power is the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
In her book, written before Clark entered politics, Power credited him with saving the lives of 1.3 million Albanians. She gives a more plausible explanation for Clark's removal from Europe than Shelton does, and her opinion of Clark's character and integrity more than outweigh Shelton's.
At Clark's press conference last week upon his return from the Milosevic trial, Power introduced Clark as someone who led an intervention in genocide for the first and only time in US history. Alluding to Washington politics, she said Clark was "willing to own something that was very unfashionable at the time." She notes in her book (again, written before Clark entered politics) that this personal sacrifice caused Clark to suffer his early retirement at the hands of Washington bureaucrats.
The following excerpts from Power’s book give the details. The narrative surrounding the quotes was written by another person commenting on the book. Note especially Power's last comment on Clark's pariah status in Washington:
"General Clark is one of the heroes of Samantha Power's book. She introduces him on the second page of her chapter on Rwanda and describes his distress on learning about the genocide there and not being able to contact anyone in the Pentagon who really knew anything about it and/or about the Hutu and Tutsi. She writes, "He frantically telephoned around the Pentagon for insight into the ethnic dimension of events in Rwanda. Unfortunately, Rwanda had never been of more than marginal concern to Washington's most influential planners" (p. 330) .
He advocated multinational action of some kind to stop the genocide. "Lieutenant General Wesley Clark looked to the White House for leadership. 'The Pentagon is always going to be the last to want to intervene,' he says. 'It is up to the civilians to tell us they want to do something and we'll figure out how to do it.' But with no powerful personalities or high-ranking officials arguing forcefully for meaningful action, midlevel Pentagon officials held sway, vetoing or stalling on hesitant proposals put forward by midlevel State Department and NSC officials" (p. 373).
According to Power, General Clark was already passionate about humanitarian concerns, especially genocide, before his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe. When genocide began to occur in the Balkans, he was determined to stop it.
She details his efforts in behalf of the Dayton Peace Accords and his brilliant command of NATO forces in Kosovo. Her chapter on Kosovo ends, "The man who probably contributed more than any other individual to Milosvevic's battlefield defeat was General Wesley Clark. The NATO bombing campaign succeeded in removing brutal Serb police units from Kosovo, in ensuring the return on 1.3 million Kosovo Albanians, and in securing for Albanians the right of self-governance."
"Yet in Washington Clark was a pariah. In July 1999 he was curtly informed that he would be replaced as supreme allied commander for Europe. This forced his retirement and ended thirty-four years of distinguished service. Favoring humanitarian intervention had never been a great career move.""
So, I wonder: Who would Samantha Power like to see team up with Obama in '08? Clark and Obama held the same position on Iraq before the invasion was launched, something that could amplify nicely on the campaign trail, and both suggest that concerns for human welfare should be at the core of American foreign policy. Indeed, the world has had enough of the Republican conqueror mentality.
poputonian 12/29/2006 04:30:00 AM
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Clear The TiVO
Tonight at 10:00 PM
On the Sundance Channel
In 2004, political bloggers came of age. They propelled Howard Dean from fringe candidate to front-runner. They took on Dan Rather and won. And they charted the course for the "swiftboating" of John Kerry. As the 2006 mid-term elections approached, bloggers were preparing for battle again. Filmmakers James Rogan and Phil Craig's sharp documentary examines how online democratic activism is shaping important elections by focusing on the decisive Connecticut senate race and Ned Lamont's challenge to incumbent Joe Lieberman.
Re-live the glory days of last summer and check out some of your fave bloggers on screen tonight!
Unknown 12/28/2006 05:49:00 PM
Those of us who follow politics from far outside the beltway are often amused at the way the DC estabishment has somehow convinced itself that it is a small town in middle American ca. 1937 and they are all Jimmy Stewarts and Donna Reeds. Those of us blue state heathens who live in big cities with big power centers particularly know how self serving and absurd this is.
Here's a nice piece by Michael Crowley in TNR from a few months ago that they are reprising this week as a best of 2006 that's really entertaining on just that subject:
Surry Hill. So reads a plaque at the end of the long, winding private road that leads to the crown jewel of McLean, Virginia: the 18,000-square-foot mansion that Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers and his wife Edwina call home. To get there from Washington, you drive across the Potomac River and along a parkway that, in the summer, is canopied by lush green trees. Shortly before the guarded entrance to the CIA, you turn off McLean's main road and then down a private lane, passing through brick gate posts adorned with black lanterns and into a grand cul-de-sac. A massive brick Colonial with majestic, white Georgian columns looms above a perfectly manicured lawn. Tall trees surround the house; no other buildings are in view. But the best way to appreciate the grandeur of the estate--originally zoned for nine separate homes and featuring streams, ponds, and a pair of waterfalls--is from above. The Rogerses once hired a helicopter to take aerial photos of the property, which they converted into postcards--a project requiring a paranoid, post-September 11 CIA's grudging approval.
On a recent summer afternoon, Edwina, a petite Alabaman with a demure Southern charm, opened the door to her house. Edwina doesn't know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill, but an elevator services the house's three floors. Upstairs, Edwina's bathroom (one of eight) features a small fireplace by the tub. But she is proudest of her home's dazzling--and eclectic--art collection. "We do a lot of lobbying for foreign governments. I just can't imagine any country we haven't gotten a piece from," she explains. Sashaying from room to room like a docent, she points out the eight-foot steel-plated pantry door from Rajasthan, the light fixtures from Venice, and the four Taiwanese stone statues, each weighing 300 pounds, embedded in her dining room wall. (The floor had to be reinforced with steel to support them.) Her most delicate pieces are housed in their own "art gallery"--a white-walled room where ancient figurines, pottery, and pieces of jewelry lay on cream-colored stands under Plexiglas. "We hired the company that does the Smithsonian's display cases," Edwina explains. One tiny statue, from Peru, is labeled:
Within Republican circles, Surry Hill is an iconic place--a Shangri-la for those who toil on Capitol Hill and along K Street. ("Have you seen Surry Hill?" Republicans are apt to say. "You've got to go.") It's also a testament to the rewards awaiting ambitious conservatives in modern Washington, where unprecedented wealth is being made from the business of politics. Just ask the Rogerses, who have ridden a boom in Washington lobbying during the last decade. Edwina, a former Republican Hill staffer and Bush White House aide, worked at the Washington Group, chaired by former GOP Representative Susan Molinari, whose clients have included Boeing and the government of Bangladesh. Ed, a former aide in the Reagan and first Bush White Houses and a regular on shows like msnbc's "Hardball," co-founded the powerhouse lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers in 1991. Last year, the firm--whose clients include Eli Lilly, Verizon, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and the governments of India and Qatar--reported revenue of $19 million. Built from these lobbying riches in 2002, Surry Hill is the psychic center of McLean. And McLean, in turn, has become the psychic center of the Washington Republican establishment.
Rogers is referred to as a "Republican strategist" whenever he appears on television. Let us hear no more from the mainstream media about bloggers making huge money and failing to disclose their ties, ok?
McLean covers just 18 square miles and has a population of 40,000. But it is packed with the people who impeached Bill Clinton, elected George W. Bush, launched the Iraq war, and have now learned to make millions from their association with government. Some are famous--people like Bill Kristol and Colin Powell, Scooter Libby and Newt Gingrich, several current and former Republican senators, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Dick Cheney once owned a McLean townhouse--until he sold it to Bush's 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Less well-known are the countless lobbyists, lawyers, and businessmen whose names rarely turn up in The Washington Post and who like it that way--people like super-lobbyist Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan's former chief of staff; Frank Carlucci, former chair of the Carlyle Group, the notorious global private equity firm with close ties to the Bush family; and Dwight Schar, a construction mogul who is currently finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Conventional wisdom has been slow to assimilate this new reality. In the parlance of Beltway-bashing populists, "Georgetown" is the sneering shorthand used to describe Washington's clueless, cosseted elites. That shorthand, however, reveals how little these critics really understand contemporary Washington. Georgetown--and the establishment that resided there--faded from importance long ago. Over the last decade of growing Republican dominance in the capital, a new establishment has risen up to replace it. In a sense, McLean is the new Georgetown. ... "The whole Georgetown liberal inner sanctum, I just don't think that exists anymore," says Sally Quinn. "That whole little social class has just disappeared."
In recent years, a new one has replaced it. Beyond their cultural preference for the suburbs, Washington's cadre of movement conservatives had no interest in joining the Georgetown set--they had come to Washington to defeat it. Certainly, these post-Reagan conservatives--many from the South and the Sunbelt--hailed from a different class. Edwina Rogers, for instance, grew up in the rural Alabama town of Wetumpka. ("Dirt road, no telephone.") Ed is from Birmingham. (They met when she was a University of Alabama law student and he was working for the 1984 Reagan campaign.) As Edwina explained it, "Georgetown is more for the social elite, the intellectual elite. The people in McLean are more from humble backgrounds, state universities, not coming in from Yale or Harvard. It's middle-American nouveau riche."
Indeed, the migration of power from Georgetown to McLean represents the shift in American politics in microcosm. The Northeastern liberal elite drawn to the urbane sophistication of Georgetown has receded. In its place has risen a new conservative striver class--more likely to have grown up in Texas (or, as with the Rogerses, Alabama)--that has set itself up as landed gentry across the Potomac River in McLean.
Or Arkansas, but that was different. Clinton was, evidently, from the wrong side of the hill (billy.)
But it's not merely political power that has accumulated in GOP circles over the last decade-plus. It's also money. The modern Republican brand of corporate conservatism, embodied in the capital by Tom DeLay's K Street Project, cultivated a climate of unprecedented access--and therefore profit--for lobbyists. If the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals didn't tell you everything you need to know, consider some statistics: Between 2000 and 2005, the number of registered Washington lobbyists doubled to about 35,000--and overall spending on lobbying grew by 30 percent, to $2.1 billion. A well-connected congressional aide can easily win a $300,000 starting salary on K Street. When John Boehner became House majority leader last winter, watchdog groups pointed out that a whopping 14 of his former aides had gone on to K Street lobbying jobs. Meanwhile, where it was once considered tacky for former members of Congress to lobby, they now routinely cash in their access and know-how for seven-figure earnings. In Washington, the spirit of public service has been overtaken by the profit motive.
Much of that profit has followed the maturing conservative establishment into McLean. "You're seeing now what I call the Gingrich Republicans, the revolutionaries--all the staffers are in their early forties now, and they're married; they're moving off Capitol Hill," says one former House GOP aide-turned-lobbyist. "And they're deciding, OK, where am I going to be for the next 20 years. And, three-to-one, people move to McLean." That helps to explain why McLean's median income is among the highest in the country--topping such ritzy enclaves as Greenwich, Highland Park, and Malibu.
"There's definitely more money in Washington than there was twenty or thirty years ago," agrees Fred Malek, a venture capitalist and Bush family intimate who managed George H.W. Bush's 1992 presidential campaign and co-owned the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush. But Malek, who has lived in McLean since 1969, contends that people like Brzezinski overstate its gilding: "I see a lot of families with kids, greenery. It's a wonderfully close-in suburb that offers an island of tranquility in a sea of turbulence."
Of course, it's natural to have that view when you live, as Malek does, on Crest Lane, among some of McLean's poshest homes. One property here, said to have been rented by Queen Noor of Jordan, listed in 2003 for $11.5 million. A realtor's brochure describes it as "a spectacular estate," which "curves dramatically on the top of a hill. ... Watch the American eagles glide by!" Other Crest Lane residents include governor-turned-lobbyist Frank Keating and Richard Darman, a former Reagan official who is now a senior figure at the Carlyle Group.
Malek's house lies at the end of a long arching driveway that passes lush gardens. On a recent morning, he sat in his living room filled with antique furniture, a gigantic fireplace, and a stunning view of the Potomac churning over rocks below. "It's pretty nice," he said matter-of-factly.
Malek sat and chatted about life in McLean for a while. Then the phone rang. He took the call and returned a few minutes later. "One of my airplane's engines had a problem. That was the mechanic. Fixed."
Last May, not far from Malek's house at the Saudi Arabian ambassador's compound, Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Saudi kingdom's new emissary to the United States, hosted a gala party. The scene, according to the descriptions of those who attended, was straight out of the film Syriana. White drapes and soft lighting lent the compound's pool house a dreamy atmosphere for the gathering of a few hundred of Washington's biggest names in politics and media: Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, Bob Woodward, Ted Koppel, John Negroponte, Syrian ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha, and TV-hollerer John McLaughlin, who pulled up in a silver Porsche. The enormous compound--with a 38-room main house, 12-bedroom staff house, tennis court, and guard house at its front gate--has long been the scene of Washington intrigue. Its last occupant, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, used to informally host visitors like New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Tenet, who sometimes stopped off for a drink on his way home from CIA headquarters. Faisal's gala didn't run late--"there was no alcohol," complains one attendee (unlike the more hedonistic Bandar, Turki forbids booze). But his obvious purpose of stroking Washington's power elite had been served.
In the new McLean, socializing and lobbying are one and the same. An enormous amount of conservative hobnobbing is organized around fund-raisers or lobbyist-subsidized entertainment. Malek and his wife, Marlene, have hosted fund-raisers for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olympia Snowe, George Allen, George Pataki, Arlen Specter, and George W. Bush. And events like Turki's, designed to win favor and influence, are conducted on a massive scale. A notice in The Hill for last September's installment of GOP lobbyist Tim Rupli's annual Pig Pickin' party expected around 500 guests, including several senior Capitol Hill staffers, who could enjoy a honky-tonk band and the roasting of three hogs. Alcohol was provided gratis by the DC-based wine and beer wholesalers' associations. Indeed, the closest thing to an intimate Georgetown salon one can find in McLean may be regular dinners--including annual seder meals--hosted by Bush foreign policy aide Elliott Abrams and attended by such fellow neoconservatives as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz.
The Georgetown of old was clubby, but it was not highly partisan; its heyday coincided with the era of postwar political consensus. The culture of McLean, by contrast, seems built around a politicized Republican identity. Just ask Terry McAuliffe, one of the few prominent Democrats there. (Not shocking in McAuliffe's case, given that, as a millionaire former business mogul and golf enthusiast, he is perhaps Washington's most culturally Republican Democrat. He also arrived in McLean in 1991, during a less conservative era.) "When we got out here, it was like animals in the zoo--'Guess who's moved into the neighborhood?'" jokes the former Democratic Party chairman. McAuliffe was once stopped at a red light in the middle of town when a stranger got out of his car and berated his politics. During Mark Warner's 2001 gubernatorial campaign, McAuliffe planted a large warner for governor sign on his lawn. "Every couple of nights someone would come out after one or two in the morning and spray-paint all kinds of awful things." Each time, McAuliffe would replace the sign with a fresh one. "This went on no less than fifteen times!"
Even churchgoing has a political cast in McLean. Worshippers at Trinity United Methodist Church, just off McLean's main drag, listen to sermons from pastor Kathleene Card, wife of former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. (The church's signage recently advertised a somewhat belated sermon on christianity & world religions: understanding islam.) For evangelicals, there is McLean Bible Church, a $90 million complex that seats 2,400 parishioners. ("The Wal-Mart of churches," one former church employee told the Post in 2004.) McLean Bible is led by the crusading Reverend Lon Solomon, who preaches a particularly doctrinaire and conservative gospel with the aid of elaborate mood lighting, 92 speakers, and the occasional fog machine. Solomon has attracted such prominent Republicans as Kenneth Starr, Dan Coats, Don Nickles, Don Evans, Senator John Thune, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and a clique of young Bush White House staffers. "It's really because of Lon Solomon that I go," the conservative Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who sometimes takes notes during Solomon's sermons, told the Post. "He does things that many others don't do. He's not afraid to say things and talk about political issues. He's very pro-life and strong on opposing homosexual [marriage]." In one sermon during the Clinton impeachment, Solomon reportedly issued a thinly veiled Clinton-bashing spiel about how lying to the American people is wrong. That would be little surprise, given that Solomon is close to Ken Starr, to whom he sent encouraging personal notes during the Clinton inquisition. Perhaps because of Solomon's fearless mixing of religion and politics, McLean Bible is a networking hub for young Washington conservatives, and many a GOP power couple has formed there. One McLean lobbyist, a former aide to Senator Phil Gramm named Jay Velasquez, told Roll Call that he met his future wife in the church's lobby when she complimented his cowboy boots.
Isn't that special? "Fearless mixing of religion and politics" is one way of putting it, I guess. (Why are churches exempted from taxation again?)
I think that what may have surprised me the most about this story is that Ed Rogers is married to a woman, but the large sums of money come in a close second. Property in McLean is more valuable that Greenwich or Malibu and there is something terribly wrong with that. These are the good ole boy Republicans who hold fancy "Pig Pickin'parties" and claim to represent Real Americans --- it's one of the greatest con jobs ever perpetrated. I've got no problem with people getting rich -- I've got a lot of problems with people doing it by stealing money from the taxpayers while wearing a cross and condemning others' morality.
This little community of newly minted aristocrats needs to be broken up. This can be accomplished by denying them any more taxpayer funded plunder and putting a few of them under the microscope and possibly in jail. At the very least, they should be exposed for the phonies they are. I suspect that most Americans don't really give a damn about this stuff when things are going well. It's when the economy goes south --- and it will --- that they will lose their patience. Be prepared. This story and others like it will add fuel to the fire.
Unknown 12/28/2006 03:41:00 PM
Rolling Over In My Grave
Guest post by Herbert Block
It is not my intent to startle you by returning from the dead (actually, I'm still dead), but after watching the collective memory lapse of the American media, I am compelled to present excerpts from my book, Herblock Special Report, which was first published in 1974.
First, from the Foreword to the book:
After Nixon left office, the idea was still being promoted that those who believed in letting the law take its course were somehow moved by personal motives. But quite the contrary was true.
It was not Nixon who had been assaulted by government, but the government that had been assaulted by Nixon.
It was not those who believed in the American system of justice who operated on a highly personal basis, but staunch Nixon supporters like Gerald Ford.
When President Ford recommended that Congress give former President Nixon large sums of money -- beyond all that was provided by law -- and when he suddenly granted Nixon total and absolute pardon without even waiting for an indictment or a plea of nolo contendre, it was Ford who placed personal feeling for Nixon above his obligations to the people he was sworn to serve.
There is often confusion between fairness and favorableness. In 1974, Nixon supporters called for fairness to the President -- -or in Nixonese, "the presidency."
I've believed in fairness to every President -- and to the 210 million American non-Presidents.
That's what all the fighting was about. It was summed up in the legal titles of the cases brought by the Special Prosecutor before the Supreme Court and printed in the usual court case manner:
United States of America, petitioner,
Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States
That's still what the fighting is all about -- whether anyone who has gained office, however high, is above the people and the laws of the United States.
And from the Afterword:
When Nixon left office, there was a general sigh of relief. And in his first talk as President, Gerald Ford said that "our long national nightmare" was over. But one month later, in the Sunday morning statement that shocked the country, he said he could not "prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed." So he issued a "full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon," and decided that Nixon should have control over access to White House tapes and documents. He thus insured that the nation's bad dreams would be prolonged far into the future.
Gerald Ford, in what columnist Mary McGrory called a Pearl Harbor "sneak attack on the due process and common sense," sought to still conscience forever with a sudden stunning blow, just as Richard Nixon tried to do in his "Saturday Night Massacre." Ford's attempt, like Nixon's failed. But he did enormous damage to the nation.
Ford's secret decision proved, if proof were needed, how shaky the basis for the national self-congratulations of only a few weeks before on how well "the system worked."
There was even less reason to feel lucky about the responses of many Americans to these disclosures.
It's frightening that many Americans felt that The President should be supported whatever he did. It is even more frightening that in the face of all the evidence, Congress was reluctant to act until finally a prospective impeachment seemed safer than doing nothing. As noble as were the words and deeds of some House Judiciary Committee members, it seemed incredible that other members could for so long find nothing wrong at all. And a majority could not agree on more than three articles of impeachment to offer the Senate.
It was a strange kind of "hanging," in which President Ford shortly afterward asked Congress to appropriate $850,000 for Nixon. Of this, $450,000 was allotted for expenses related to an "orderly transition." The allotment for travel expenses was $40,000 and there was $100,000 for "miscellaneous."
It was a "hanging" that seemed more like a payday at the mill.
Those who had done nothing to stop the spreading national infection now sought to bind up the nation's wounds -- with the infection still there. They wanted to avoid national division -- by creating a situation in which the nation might be forever torn on whether this President had really committed serious offenses, or whether any President should be subject to penalties. Here was a formula not for ending a nightmare but for continuing one.
It is hardly vindictive to ask why men who betrayed positions of the highest trust should not even be required a guilty plea. It would be hardly a good precedent if those who achieved the highest offices were deemed immune to anything but the possible loss of those highest jobs.
Those who were so greatly concerned about the resigned President and Vice President acted as if the high positions and emoluments belonged to the Nixons and the Agnews -- as if they were heroes whose laurels had somehow unfortunately, even unfairly, been snatched from them.
Compassion is due all criminals. There are luckless poor and ignorant who spend much of their lives in jail for minor crimes. But Nixon and Agnew showed a remarkable lack of compassion for such people -- while committing their own crimes because of a greed for money and power which could not be satisfied even with the highest offices in the nation.
Yet there was much talk about the "tragedy" that those who had risen so high should have fallen -- as if we were marking the passing of kings.
The tragedy is not that those who rose so high should fall so low. The tragedy is that those who had so low an appreciation for our government should have risen to such high positions in it.
As Americans were relaxing and enjoying their good fortune on coming through the crisis, there was the smashing blow of the new President's 8th-of-September statement.
The Gerald Ford -- who, at the hearings on his confirmation to be Vice President, had said that "the public wouldn't stand for" a possible Nixon pardon, and who only days earlier had said clemency would be reserved while the law went forward -- this Gerald Ford now suddenly issued an irrevocable pardon to his predecessor for all offenses -- known and unknown.
It was as if he regarded offenses against the public as none of the public's business. In judging that Nixon had "suffered enough," he punished still further an already suffering nation.
The New York Times said:
President Ford speaks of compassion. It is tragic that he had no compassion and concern for the Constitution and the Government of law that he has sworn to uphold and defend. He could probably have taken no single act of a non-criminal nature that would have more gravely damaged the credibility of his Government in the eyes of the world and of its own people than this unconscionable act of pardon.
The speech was boggling to Americans who thought credibility had at last been restored to the Oval Office.
Ford said: "I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans whatever their station or former station" -- and then went on to show that he believed in no such thing.
He talked about the danger of passions being aroused and of opinions polarized -- and proceeded to arouse passions and to polarize people. He spoke of ensuring domestic tranquility -- and created domestic turmoil.
And he said that he, as President, was exercising his power "to firmly shut and seal this book."
And so the idea of some divine right of Presidents went on.
Click on the image below to read the caption. I'm going back to sleep now.
poputonian 12/28/2006 09:28:00 AM
So It Begins
I missed Edwards' announcement this morning but I'm sure I'll catch it later on today. (Ezra writes about it here.) I did watch the video in the ad at left at was thrilled to see him use the phrase "McCain Doctrine of escalation in Iraq." Yes indeedy.
It appears that Edwards is going to try to bring civic action inspiration and movement building to his campaign which should be quite interesting. Obama has the charismatic, symbolic JFK role wrapped up --- maybe Edwards is looking to be the inspirational, social justice RFK guy in the race. (Hey, if every Republican politician in the country can run as the new Ronald Reagan, we can use our heroes too.)
Unknown 12/28/2006 09:00:00 AM
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Never Made A Mistake
President Bush on Wednesday remembered former President Gerald Ford as a "man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts" and helped restore faith in the presidency after the Watergate scandal.
Common sense indeed:
Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq
By Bob Woodward
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush had launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
Nice of him to keep it to himself. But then protecting crazy Republicans was one of his specialties.
But this is really goood:
Most challenging of all, as Ford recalled, was Henry A. Kissinger, who was both secretary of state and national security adviser and had what Ford said was "the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."
"I think he was a super secretary of state," Ford said, "but Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend."
Was he ever right about that. Kissinger is, in that respect, exactly like Cheney and Rummy (and the neocons who used to loathe him.) And it's why we find ourselves reliving this Groundhog Day quagmire. Ever since I heard that Henry was lurking around the White House whispering into Junior's ear, it's been clear what was up: mulligan.
Unknown 12/27/2006 07:43:00 PM
The Fall Of St John
Kos has posted an interesting item by Bob Novak, which, if true, would be good news:
1. The debate inside the Republican Party is whether the mid-term election defeat was solely the result of unhappiness over Iraq or constituted deeper concern with the drift of the GOP, under both presidential and Congressional leadership. Defeated Republicans who put all of the blame on Iraq are infuriated by White House denials of this argument. In any event, we find widespread agreement among Republicans that U.S. troops must be leaving Iraq at the end of 2007 to avoid catastrophe in 2008.
2. The decline in the polls of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), as measured against Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), reflects more than declining Republican popularity nationally in the weeks after the election. It connotes public disenchantment with McCain's aggressive advocacy of a "surge" of up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Unless the additional troops show immediate benefits, President George W. Bush's determination to put more boots on the ground is feared by Republicans as another political burden to bear.
I'm not sure what could stop Bush at this point if he is convinced by his top military advisors (Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and Laura Ingraham) that an escalation is just what the doctor ordered. But it's good to know that even Republicans are beginning to see that the McCain-Lieberman escalation plan is just the latest tinker-bell tactic.
Putting more troops over there is a ridiculous idea set forth by the same neoconservative fantasists who got us into this in the first place. And whether Bush does it or not, it's an idea that St John McCain owns as his very own --- he's been urging escalation from the beginning and continues to agitate for it even when it's obvious that it won't work. He has stuck his neck way far out on this.
I just don't see how he backs off now. If those Republicans Novak quotes are right and McCain is suffering in the polls because of his escalation plan then great. It just means that we won't actually send in more troops and McCain will continue to be seen as the slightly insane warmongering weirdo he really is.
*Also, the item about Republicans being furious with the White House about being told they are to blame for the election loss because they were not conservative enough is a very entertaining sideshow. Karl Rove treated the congress like a bunch of house boys for the last six years and they followed every twisted order with a smile. It's some serious chutzpah for him to be whispering about how they didn't "perform." Haha.
Unknown 12/27/2006 05:22:00 PM