Archive for January, 2007

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A howl in memory of Molly Ivins

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

As you’ve probably heard, Molly Ivins has died at 62 of cancer. There have been many sad tributes to Molly on progressive web sites (here, here, here and here), and rightly so — but somehow I think she might have liked this one better.

In Molly’s honor, I propose that we all let out a howl in accordance with the Klingon death ritual. As all Star Trek fans know:

The Klingon death ritual was a Klingon ritual performed during or following the death of a warrior.

The ritual involves opening and looking into the dying man’s eyes and howling, warning those in Sto-vo-kor that a warrior is on his way.

Except in this case the warning will be directed to any plutocrats who’ve settled into heaven just a little too comfortably, telling them to prepare to be skewered.

Update: Texas Observer tribute here (via Daily Kos)

Does anyone anywhere actually think Biden has a prayer?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

This is a serious question:  With the exception, presumably, of the candidate himself, does anyone anywhere actually believe Joe Biden has even a remote chance of winning the nomination?  Someone should really do a PhD dissertation on this.  It’s the perfect example of just how self-consumed the inside the beltway crowd can become — of how oblivious they often are to the realities beyond.

Biden was first elected to the Senate at age 29 (he turned 30 — the minimum constitutional age — a couple of weeks later in time to take office).  This is a man, therefore, who has spent virtually his entire adult life serving in the Senate — helping to decide issues of great importance, being driven around in limos and being called Senator. 

As an opponent of term limits, I normally don’t feel this way, but I do sort of wonder whether Joe (who has generally been a good senator) would have been better served in the long run if, before becoming a senatorial fixture, he’d spent a little more time practicing law, selling life insurance or even bumming around Europe.  Maybe that would have given him the powers of introspection necessary to look into the mirror and say with disappointment, “No, that’s never going to be the face of a president.” 

Zero tolerance for “Democrat Party”

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Poor George W. Bush misspoke during his State of the Union speech, somehow managing to mispronounce the “Democratic Party” as the “Democrat Party.”  Although those awful liberal bloggers immediately jumped to the conclusion this was a calculated insult, The Great Decider himself has now assured us nothing could be further from the truth.

(Washington Post) Bush Says Missing ‘-ic’ Was an Oversight

President Bush says the missing “-ic” in the State of the Union address was nothing more than an oversight.

Near the beginning of the speech last week, Bush congratulated “the Democrat majority” for its electoral victory, using a long-standing Republican formulation seen by many Democrats as a calculated insult. Some liberal bloggers and party strategists saw the president’s omission of the last two letters of the party’s proper name, Democratic, as a sign of insincerity in preaching bipartisanship.

Nothing of the sort, Bush said in an interview yesterday with National Public Radio’s Juan Williams.

“That was an oversight,” said Bush, who frequently uses the formulation. “I mean, I’m not trying to needle. Look, I went into the hall saying we can work together, and I was very sincere about it. I didn’t even know I did it.”

It’s a funny thing about oversights though — especially the insulting ones — how often the very same people keep making the same ones over and over again.  In this instance, for example, I was about 7.2 seconds into a Google search on the topic when I came upon this New Yorker ”The Talk of the Town” comment, from July/August of last year, by Hendrik Hertzberg:


Last week, the gnat was buzzing at a high altitude. An e-mail from none other than “President George W. Bush,” arriving last Monday morning in millions of in-boxes, hinted strongly at where the Commander-in-Chief stands on the name issue. To wit:

The Democrat Party has a clear record when it comes to taxes.


Nothing threatens our hard-won reforms and economic prosperity more than a Democrat victory this November.


The difference is clear: if you want the government in your pocket, vote Democrat. 

It’s a great piece, as Hertzberg’s stuff usually is: It even includes a nice history of how this deliberately insulting mangling of the Democratic Party’s name came into common usage among Republicans.  (Hint: It has a lot to do with Joe McCarthy.)


Tom Tomorrow at his best

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

See it here

(It breaks my heart to have to give credit for the find to someone else, since I check his newest toon religiously every Sunday night at Salon.  But this time I didn’t, so credit for the steer goes to Eric Alterman.)

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Dick Cheney: A testimonial nightmare in the making

Monday, January 29th, 2007

If Dick Cheney really does testify in the Libby trial, God would I love to be the one cross-examining him.

Just to remind yourself of who we’re dealing with here, take a few minutes to watch Cheney in action sparring with Wolf Blitzer, or better yet watch Jon Stewart’s review of the interview on The Daily Show (you’ll get the same information, but it’s a hell of a lot funnier).

You see, I know this guy — not personally, but the personality type.  As a medical malpractice defense lawyer (back in my pre-café days), I cross-examined guys like this many times — expert witnesses who somehow managed to bring together in one explosive package most of the worst possible attributes a witness can have. 

And God be my witness, Dick Cheney has every one of them — an arrogance that exceeds the reality of his abilities, contempt for “lesser people,” a hair-trigger temper when challenged and a willingness to play fast and loose with the truth, confident that no one else is smart enough to catch him.

Let’s just say that when witnesses like that go up against competent opposing council, it usually ends badly for them (or at least for the party calling them as a witness).

Personally, I doubt Patrick Fitzgerald has deliberately set out to spring a perjury trap on the VP; that’s more of a Kenneth Starr kind of deal.  But the potential for Cheney stumbling into a perjury rap is, I think, very real.  Extreme arrogance combined with a willingness to be untruthful tends to be a particularly toxic mixture in a courtroom.

But even if nothing quite so dramatic happens, which, of course, most likely it won’t, I will be very surprised if Cheney doesn’t end up making a very poor and unbelievable witness — the kind of witness the jury later tells you, “We really hated that guy.”

Of course, who that helps or hurts will depend entirely on what Libby’s legal team is hoping to accomplish in subpoenaing the vice president (assuming they’re trying to accomplish anything more than putting pressure on Bush to grant a pardon, something that seems extremely unlikely to happen in the middle of the trial, but deals could always quietly be struck to be implemented later).  If they’re hoping that Cheney will sweep the jury off their feet, well, good luck to them on that.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if something else is in play. 

If the defense strategy really is, as advertised, to cast Libby in the role of the fall guy, setting Cheney up as the real bad guy might prove damn effective.  Juries don’t like it when they think the little guy is being picked on while the big cheese is walking free.  Selling Scooter Libby as a little guy would obviously take some doing, but if they could succeed, using the Dickster as a foil would make a lot of sense.  

It should be an interesting few weeks in the courtroom.

Update: Larry the Red raises a good point in the comments: He questions whether Cheney would be loyal enough to Libby to allow himself to be painted as the bad guy.  I agree Cheney isn’t the sort of guy to voluntarily take a bullet for anyone.  On the other hand, we don’t know what Libby knows that Cheney doesn’t want out.  And it’s hard for me to see what Cheney can say that will be helpful to Libby without it at the same time being embarrassing to Cheney. 

The basic point of the article, in any case, remains the same.  If Cheney testifies, he stands a huge risk of being made to look like a complete idiot.

This is embarrassing

Monday, January 29th, 2007

(AP) Miami plans big party when Castro dies

The city of Miami is planning an official celebration at the Orange Bowl whenever Cuban president Fidel Castro dies.

Discussions by a committee appointed earlier this month by the city commission to plan the event have even covered issues such as a theme to be printed on T-shirts, what musicians would perform, the cost and how long the celebration would last.

Such a gathering has long been part of the city’s plan for Castro’s death, but firming up the specifics has been more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.

Lieberman continues to happily self-destruct

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Can we bring popcorn?

Friday, January 26th, 2007

According to Newsweek, Libby’s lawyers have subpoenaed Karl Rove.

First, I should confess that I secretly hope Scooter Libby doesn’t have to go to jail.  No one with a name that cute could possibly survive the big house.  (Yes, I know he’d go to a minimum security facility, it was a joke for Pete’s sake.)

Still, assuming his defense team continues to make life unpleasant for the White House, personally I’ll be satisfied if he receives probation.  (And may I suggest having him do his community service cleaning the toilets at the CIA).

Meanwhile, here’s the question of the day: Is Libby’s legal team bluffing (pressuring Bush to pardon him), or are they seriously going to call Rove as a witness? 

Please let it be the latter, pretty please with sugar on top.  Talk about a great show.  I’m generally no fan of cameras in the courtroom, but not having Rove’s testimony televised (which in federal court it won’t be) will truly be a crime against entertainment.

When a blowjob was king

Friday, January 26th, 2007

One big problem with much of what passes as moral thinking today is the tendency to treat morality as a black and white issue, when, of course, it’s actually about all those irritating shades of gray.

Murder and adultery may both be immoral, for example, but while most people would agree that life in prison can be a just sanction for the former, surely no one but a raving lunatic would argue it’s a morally defensible penalty for the latter (the recent ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals notwithstanding).

So it would seem incontestable that to be a moral person, one must have a morally defensible sense of proportion. The sort of sense of proportion, for instance, that allows one to recognize that a sexual act between consenting adults is a less grievous crime than, oh, say, committing a fraud in order to start a war that ends up killing hundreds of thousands of people.

So let us travel back to the waning days of the last millennium, to a time when a blowjob was king. We refer, of course, to Bill Clinton’s ill-fated tryst with a certain young intern. Take a moment, if you will, to remember back to that time of yore; let the sights and sounds of beltway moral outrage roll over you like the polluted wine from a Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker or Ted Haggard communion service.

Oh, yes, those were the heady days of righteous indignation among the beltway punditocracy. Most famous of all, of course, were the comments of the “dean” himself, David Broder who said of Clinton, “He came in here and he trashed the place and it’s not his place.”

Now fast forward eight years or so, to a time when — thank God — the White House appears safe from unsavory blowjobs, but where there’s that little matter of Bush & Co.’s clear deceit in leading our nation into one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in its history. Where’s the righteous passion among our opinion leaders today?

The answer, of course, is that for the most part it’s nowhere to be found, packed away perhaps in the same secret hiding place as the weapons of mass destruction. Dean Broder still seems mostly to care about maintaining decorum among the denizens of inside the beltway Washington. And by that I mean the people who belong there, like Joe Lieberman, as opposed to pretenders to the throne like Bill Clinton. In a recent column, for example, he sings the praises of an illusory opportunity for “A Chance For Unity On Iraq.” Yeah that’s the ticket. What’s important is unity among the ruling elite, not ending the war.

That’s a well-grounded view of moral proportionality all right — a consensual blowjob means there’s hell to pay, but defraud the nation into embracing disaster and massive bloodshed and any talk of accountability is met with a resounding “heavens no.” Why do that when, instead, we can simply let bygones be bygones, hold hands and sing a few verses of “Here Comes the Sun?”

I know this has all been said before, but maybe not enough from the standpoint of morality: Because ultimately, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that many of this nation’s top opinion leaders have a staggeringly amoral view of the universe.

And these are the guys who are supposed to lead our national dialogue.

Update: Like I said, it’s all been said before, here by Alterman, via Cliff.

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Thursday, January 25th, 2007