At work, we have this term, “level-set.” I’m not exactly sure why, but it basically means to step back and take stock of where a project stands and what we’re trying to do (I may not have that exactly right, but I’m still employed, so I must not be too far off). I was doing my own level-set of the Scooter Libby trial, but instead of looking at it from the perspective of Scooter’s guilt or innocence or prospects, I was thinking about the sheer number of leakers involved, and who they work for.
By my count, there are at least five government-to-media leakers (in no particular order): Libby, Rove, Ari Fleischer, Dan Bartlett, and Richard Armitage – did I miss anyone? So far in the trial, Dick Cheney has been portrayed as the criminal mastermind orchestrating all of these leaks (except maybe Armitage’s), yet all the leakers but Libby reported primarily to Bush, not Cheney.
Three thoughts, related and not:
1) Five leakers sounds like a full-court press to me. Are we really supposed to believe that even a president as clueless as Dubya was not aware of what his #2 and his “brain” were up to?
2) Are we really supposed to believe that, as his defense contends, Libby was so distracted by Important And Busy Responsibilities to remember any particulars about Plame or the leakage?
3) Did Ari resign so he wouldn’t have to be in the awkward position of having to answer media questions about a leak that he himself participated in?
5 commentsJanuary 31st, 2007 at 08:17pmPosted by Eli
White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor.
Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop.
Okay, so, the preznit is at the controls of a powerful and destructive machine he barely knows how to operate, recklessly sends it full speed ahead into a crowd of innocent people, and cackles at the sight of everyone in front of him running for their lives, and his staff trying to minimize the damage. Yeah, that sounds pretty much par for the course.
So here’s my question: What if everyone hadn’t been able to get out of the way in time? What if Dubya actually ran someone over while he was playing Killdozer-In-Chief? (Warning: Impending Tense Shift) Would there be any consequences (Out-Of-Control President Crushes Secret Service Agent To Death!), or would it just be a great big joke like Cheney shooting someone in the face? Or would the media just gloss over it as an honest mistake, like they did the last time he decided to mow down a whole bunch of people for a momentary hard-on?
7 commentsJanuary 31st, 2007 at 03:06pmPosted by Eli
LAST August, a federal judge found that the president of the United States broke the law, committed a serious felony and violated the Constitution. Had the president been an ordinary citizen — someone charged with bank robbery or income tax evasion — the wheels of justice would have immediately begun to turn. The F.B.I. would have conducted an investigation, a United States attorney’s office would have impaneled a grand jury and charges would have been brought.
But under the Bush Justice Department, no F.B.I. agents were ever dispatched to padlock White House files or knock on doors and no federal prosecutors ever opened a case.
The ruling was the result of a suit, in which I am one of the plaintiffs, brought against the National Security Agency by the American Civil Liberties Union. It was a response to revelations by this newspaper in December 2005 that the agency had been monitoring the phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans for more than four years without first obtaining warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In the past, even presidents were not above the law. When the F.B.I. turned up evidence during Watergate that Richard Nixon had obstructed justice by trying to cover up his involvement, a special prosecutor was named and a House committee recommended that the president be impeached.
And when an independent counsel found evidence that President Bill Clinton had committed perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case, the impeachment machinery again cranked into gear, with the spectacle of a Senate trial (which ended in acquittal).
Laws are broken, the federal government investigates, and the individuals involved — even if they’re presidents — are tried and, if found guilty, punished. That is the way it is supposed to work under our system of government. But not this time.
Last Aug. 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit issued her ruling in the A.C.L.U. case. The president, she wrote, had “undisputedly violated” not only the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, but also statutory law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Enacted by a bipartisan Congress in 1978, the FISA statute was a response to revelations that the National Security Agency had conducted warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. To deter future administrations from similar actions, the law made a violation a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.
On Jan. 17, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unexpectedly declared that President Bush had ended the program, deciding to again seek warrants in all cases. Exactly what kind of warrants — individual, as is required by the law, or broad-based, which would probably still be illegal — is as yet unknown.
The action may have been designed to forestall a potentially adverse ruling by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, which had scheduled oral arguments on the case for today. At that hearing, the administration is now expected to argue that the case is moot and should be thrown out — while reserving the right to restart the program at any time.
But that’s a bit like a bank robber coming into court and arguing that, although he has been sticking up banks for the past half-decade, he has agreed to a temporary halt and therefore he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Independent of the A.C.L.U. case, a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and a special prosecutor should begin immediately. The question that must finally be answered is whether the president is guilty of committing a felony by continuously reauthorizing the warrantless eavesdropping program for the past five years. And if so, what action must be taken?
Under his program, President Bush could probably be charged with wiretapping… thousands of people without having obtained a court order authorizing the taps as required by federal law, in violation of FISA.
To allow a president to break the law and commit a felony for more than five years without even a formal independent investigation would be the ultimate subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law. As Judge Taylor warned in her decision, “There are no hereditary kings in America.”
What. I’ve. Been. Saying. This is a structural flaw in our government: Presidents are not subject to traditional (i.e., nonpartisan criminal proceedings, thus ensuring that political calculations and backscratching/-stabbing will always trump those Republican bugaboos of Fact and Law. Which has brought us to the point where a president can publicly announce that he has broken the law, and intends to continue breaking the law, supremely (and correctly) confident that he will suffer no adverse consequences.
I am reminded of a scene from Ahnold’s action-movie spoof, The Last Action Hero, in which a movie villain has just crossed over into the real world. As he gradually begins to realize just how different it is from his action movie universe, he loudly announces, “I’ve just shot a man! I did it on purpose!”, and… nothing happens.
4 commentsJanuary 31st, 2007 at 12:31pmPosted by Eli
Dirty tricks… turn up every election season, in large part because they are so rarely punished. But two Democratic senators, Barack Obama of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York, are introducing a bill today that would make deceiving or intimidating voters a federal crime with substantial penalties.
The bill aims at some of the most commonly used deceptive political tactics. It makes it a crime to knowingly tell voters the wrong day for an election. There have been numerous reports of organized efforts to use telephones, leaflets or posters to tell voters, especially in minority areas, not to vote on Election Day because voting has been postponed.
The bill would also criminalize making false claims to voters about who has endorsed a candidate, or wrongly telling people – like immigrants who are registered voters in Orange County – that they cannot vote.
Along with defining these crimes and providing penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, the bill would require the Justice Department to counteract deceptive election information that has been put out, and to report to Congress after each election on what deceptive practices occurred and what the Justice Department did about them.
The bill would also allow individuals to go to court to stop deceptive practices while they are happening. That is important, given how uninterested the current Justice Department has proved to be in cracking down on election-season dirty tricks.
[T]he bill being introduced today is an important step toward making elections more honest and fair. There is no reason it should not be passed by Congress unanimously.
It’s not perfect – I think a five-year sentence is way too lenient, and it’s unclear whether it addresses deceptive robocalls – but it’s a huge step in the right direction. These dirty tricks keep coming back because there is simply no deterrent against them, which is extraordinary in a country which prides itself on its democracy.
Not only is this bill excellent and long-overdue policy, but it’s also a great litmus-test vote: When the Republicans held Congress, they used it to force Democrats to declare themselves on gay marriage, civil liberties, and pre-emptive war. Now, having already forced the Republicans to declare themselves on the minimum wage, the Democrats are forcing the Republicans to do the same on election fraud – I can’t wait to see who’s in favor of it. Or if Bush is brazen enough to veto it.
(Now if they can just do something about campaign financing, voter roll purges, and partisan election officials… I know, I know. Baby steps. Democracy takes time, as the Republicans keep telling us.)
A reporter from a Mexican TV station was asking questions using a hand-puppet, which had the body of a horse, wearing a Colts jersey and two huge eyes under a Colts helmet. I don’t know what is more disturbing – that image, or the fact that several players answered the puppet’s questions.
Supplemental update from the same blog entry:
Eli Manning will arrive on Thursday just in time for the Eli Manning Quarterback Challenge on South Beach. All the contestants get one throw from the beach and everyone who misses the ocean wins a prize.
Heh heh heh…
UPDATE:The Newsday football blog reports that someone asked Bears corner Ricky Manning Jr., in all seriousness, about how it would be to play against his brother Peyton. He was a good sport and pretended they weren’t completely clueless.
Hey, does anyone remember 20 years ago when some idjit asked Doug Williams if he had always been a black quarterback?
FONTANA, Calif. — A fray between rival unicycle gangs has left one cyclist dead and at least eleven in an unsteady situation.
“It’s part of a turf war between the Fontana Figure Eights and the San Bernardino Velocipede Raptors,” said police detective Donald Eversohm. “One gang pedals into another’s strip mall courtyard, and before you know it the batons are flying.”
Police confiscated hundreds of juggling clubs, beanbags, flaming poi, and devil sticks after the brawl.
“They’re mostly circus wannabes and weekend Bozos seeking big-top thrills and a few bucks by performing for shoppers,” according to Eversohm.
“But they’re pathologically quick to anger, due to their hairtrigger reflexes and power-bar diet,” the detective added. “Instead of gathering around and watching, I recommend that citizens keep their distance.”
“Remember: despite their finesse, these guys are basically unbalanced.”
ROSALYN, N.M.–A survey of online auction sites reveals that images of Jesus Christ now appear exclusively in whole wheat tortillas, and not the refined-flour tortillas that have hosted similar miracles since the late 1970s.
Christ hasn’t shown disfavor for any other kind of bread since the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’ in approximately 30 AD.
“It’s all part of Christ’s work as a healer,” said nutritionist and Catholic priest James Noyce. “Now that whole-wheat tortillas are available everywhere, Jesus is helping the faithful to avoid diabetes and heart disease.”
The divine health kick is nothing new, according to Father Noyce. In the Gospels, Christ urged the drinking of wine–which has been linked to significant reductions in coronary artery disease. The Lord’s enthusiasm for fish in the Bible also reveals, in Father Noyce’s words, that “He is the alpha, the omega, and the omega-3.”
Church officials also acknowledge the symbolism of preserving the trinity of bran, germ, and endosperm in whole wheat grains. One major supplier of consecrated breads–INRye, Inc.–now produces whole-wheat Communion wafers low in animal ‘Transubstantiation Fats.’
According to Father Noyce, the new wafers will allow slimmed-down congregations to enter Heaven, as Jesus says, “by the narrow gate.”
This also reminds me that I need to get back to work on my get-rich-quick scheme involving eBay and a Jesus-shaped branding iron…
UPDATE: Mother Panini informs me that I have no excuse not to get right on that.
3 commentsJanuary 31st, 2007 at 07:16amPosted by Eli
To the casual observer, CSI: Miami appears to be utter and total crap. But to Seasoned Television Observers like myself and the shadowy and mysterious Codename V, it is plain to see that it is a Very Subtle And Clever Parody of the CSI franchise, crime shows in general, and, well, David Caruso.
Don’t believe me? Watch this video of Horatio Caine’s pithy pearls of wisdom, oftimes accompanied by the Dramatic Sunglasses Removal:
Be sure to watch all the way through; it finishes with the opening credits sequence from the episode where they go to Rio, and it is just… grandiosely awful. Sadly, the greatest Horatio Caine line of them all is inexplicably missing: “I’m the fiber king, Dave. The fiber king.”
Some additional proof, if you are not yet convinced that CSI: Miami is a comedy (Behold! Horatio is such a badass that not even his car blowing up fazes him!):
In 1975, after the oil embargo, Congress approved the most successful energy-saving measure this country has ever seen: the Corporate Average Fuel Economy system, known as CAFE, which set minimum mileage standards for cars. Within 10 years, automobile efficiency had virtually doubled, to 27.5 miles per gallon in 1985 from just over 14 miles per gallon in 1976.
The mileage standards are still 27.5 m.p.g. Except for minor tweaks, Congress has refused to raise fuel efficiency requirements or close a gaping loophole that lets S.U.V.s and pickups be measured by a more lenient standard.
Let’s see… Since 1986, we have had a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress for a grand total of… two years. I’m thinking this is probably not a coincidence.
A Senate Republican on Tuesday directly challenged President Bush’s declaration that ”I am the decision-maker” on issues of war.
”I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider,” Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress’ war powers amid an increasingly harsh debate over Iraq war policy. ”The decider is a shared and joint responsibility,” Specter said.
Yes, we’ve all seen what a firm believer in limiting presidential power Arlen Specter is. Check that: We’ve all seen what a firm believer in talking like a firm believer in limiting presidential power Arlen Specter is.
We’ve seen this same pattern repeat itself over and over again: Administration does something outrageous and/or criminal; Specter angrily denounces it in full-blown Guardian Of The Constitution mode; Specter quietly backtracks and gives Administration everything it wants. It’s only a matter of time.
Arlen Specter’s continuing employment, like Joe Lieberman’s, is proof positive that most voters just aren’t paying attention.
2 commentsJanuary 30th, 2007 at 11:40amPosted by Eli
The Hubble Space Telescope is flying partly blind across the heavens, a result of a short circuit on Saturday morning in its most popular instrument, the Advanced Camera for Surveys.
NASA engineers reported yesterday that most of the camera’s capabilities, including the ability to take the sort of deep cosmic postcards that have inspired the public and to track the mysterious dark energy splitting the universe to the ends of time, had probably been lost for good.
In a telephone news conference, Hubble engineers and scientists said the telescope itself was in fine shape and would continue operating with its remaining instruments, which include another camera, the wide-field planetary camera 2, or wfpc2, and an infrared camera and spectrograph named Nicmos.
Mr. Burch and his colleagues said it was unlikely that they would be able to repair the camera during the next Hubble servicing mission, which is scheduled for September 2008. On that mission, astronauts will replace the wide-field camera with a powerful new version, wfpc3, which will extend the telescope’s vision to ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths and restore the lost capabilities. They will also install a new ultraviolet spectrograph and make many other pressing repairs.
Noting that the five days of spacewalks for that mission were already full, and that changing things to fix the camera would cost time and money, Dr. Burch said, “At first blush, this doesn’t look attractive.”
The Advanced Camera for Surveys was installed on the telescope in March 2002, and it has been the space telescope’s workhorse. Among its feats, in 2003 the camera took the deepest photograph of the cosmos ever taken, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, showing young galaxy fragments only one billion to two billion years after the Big Bang. In the most recent round of proposals from astronomers to use the telescope, about two-thirds required the advanced camera.
Adam Riess of the space telescope institute, who has used the Hubble telescope to search for supernova explosions in the distant universe to gauge the effects of dark energy on cosmic history, said these explosions would now be out of reach until the new camera was installed.
This really sucks.
3 commentsJanuary 30th, 2007 at 07:34amPosted by Eli
A two-fer today, since the first one is really short.
From Enid Leary:
When a graduated cylinder is incinerated, the sandwich gives secret financial aid to a miserly football team.
A cashier living with a skyscraper avoids contact with a class action suit.
And from FROST Merlin, entitled “Tell me this wasn’t worth it”:
frequent see stamp and left , knee but low some doubt a coal but crime a coat on stem may whip not writing it fowl on system it’s kind a nerve may agreement see addition some oven try trick on drop but agreement it first be stage it’s condition some school in slope in wise not example but humour but steam and money not sweet be flag see stop it’s knowledge it brain it new but opposite and mother and cotton in simple see help and year , picture a chemical , river some pleasure , transport ! change see use see effect in camera it’s end some top , wave be move and drain may electric , old the green ! example in early or sand see quiet on line but rice it acid some tall see colour but baby not chemical and adjustment or land it’s bird may bee a shock on reward but
If you’re strapped for cash and need a quick pick-me-up, simply dash off a story about how the Obama campaign is claiming that Hillary had a secret abortion after getting pregnant by her crack dealer, and then send it to the good people at Insight. They’ll give you $800, and no-one will ever even have to know it was you. Swee-eet.
Actually, I call dibs on the Hillary abortion story – go make up your own slime, I’m sure they’ll be happy to print it.
1 commentJanuary 29th, 2007 at 04:41pmPosted by Eli
It had to take at least, what, half an hour? An hour? to trace those letters and cut them out (and that’s not even counting the hour or two it took to sound them out), and not once did it cross your tiny feeble drunken mind that maybe, just maybe, this was out of line? If Da Bears had been playing the Giants, would your sign have read “BEARS FINISHING WHAT 9/11 STARTED?” Okay, probably – but only because you’re a braindead, unthinking troglodyte.
Let me explain: Heckling an opposing player about his momma or his kid is a-okay gamesmanship. Heckling an opposing player about his momma or his kid being dead is way, way over the line. Is that clear enough for you?
I’ve liked Da Bears since ’85, but knuckledragging ghouls like you are not making it easy.
They were shooting an episode of “30 Rock” with Alec Baldwin across the street, and there were long lags because some skinny guy with sunglasses and a “Royal Tenenbaums” headband kept running around them shouting, “Peanut butter! Peanut butter!” Finally, a cop took him away.
Handed the ball in the middle of the key, the prince bounced it once, twice, then attempted a one-handed shot that hit nothing but net (literally – the ball peaked about a foot below the rim).
He tried again and sank the shot off the backboard. The children cheered wildly.
“I asked him what sports were popular in his country, and he named some things I didn’t even know,” said Christopher Velazquez, 13. Cricket? “Maybe.” Polo? “Yeah, polo! He said basketball wasn’t very big over there, but he’d been practicing.”
5 commentsJanuary 29th, 2007 at 07:49amPosted by Eli
Not sure if I mentioned that I got a 50mm f/1.4 lens, and was amazed by its light-drinking capabilities – to the point where I discovered I could actually do some limited night photography without a tripod. Some results below:
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Either the new lens or its filter has some ghosting issues, or Space Invaders was eerily prophetic.
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I’m gonna go with “ghosting issues.”
Well, since watertiger posted a pic of one of the NYC subway sculptures, it occurred to me that I still have a bunch of photos of them sitting around which I took with my wee backup camera. Since I’ve been on a New York kick anyway (and am running out of photos), I figured now’s as good a time as any to post them.
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Sleeping it off.
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Umm… Class warfare?
3 commentsJanuary 27th, 2007 at 11:39amPosted by Eli
What kind of president can see one of the nation’s greatest, most historic cities ruined and not make its rebirth his highest priority? What kind of president gives a State of the Union and doesn’t even mention New Orleans?
A very bad one.
This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions.
5 commentsJanuary 26th, 2007 at 04:38pmPosted by Eli
Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.”
The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study. But experts say it is likely to alter the course of addiction research, pointing researchers toward new ideas for treatment.
While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior.
The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California, examined 32 former smokers, all of whom had suffered a brain injury. The men and women were lucid enough to answer a battery of questions about their habits, and to rate how hard it was to quit and the strength of their subsequent urges to smoke.
They all had smoked at least five cigarettes a day for two years or more, and 16 of them said they had quit with ease, losing their cravings entirely.
The researchers performed M.R.I. scans on all of the patients’ brains to specify the location and extent of each injury.
They found that the 16 who had quit easily were far more likely to have an injury to their insula than to any other area. The researchers found no association between a diminished urge to smoke and injuries to other regions of the brain, including tissue surrounding the insula.
“There’s a whole neural circuit critical to maintaining addiction, but if you knock out this one area, it appears to wipe out the behavior,” said Dr. Antoine Bechara, a senior author of the new paper, who is a neuroscientist at the Brain and Creativity Institute at U.S.C….
The patients’ desire to eat, by contrast, was intact. This suggests, the authors wrote, that the insula is critical for behaviors whose bodily effects become pleasurable because they are learned, like cigarette smoking.
The insula, for years a wallflower of brain anatomy, has emerged as a region of interest based in part on recent work by Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute. The insula has widely distributed connections, both in the thinking cortex above, and down below in subcortical areas, like the brain stem, that maintain heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, the body’s primal survival systems.
Based on his studies and others’, Dr. Damasio argues that the insula, in effect, maps these signals from the body’s physical plant, and integrates them so the conscious brain can interpret them as a coherent emotion.
The system works from the bottom up. First, the body senses cues in the outside world, and responds. The heart rate might elevate at the sight of a stranger’s angry face, for example; other muscles might relax in response to a pleasant whiff of smoke.
All of this happens instantaneously and unconsciously, Dr. Damasio said – until the insula integrates the information and makes it readable to the conscious regions of the brain.
“The question is, Can you learn to deactivate the insula?” Dr. Volkow said….
Or at least isolate it.
I look forward to a rash of DIY smoking cures involving hammers and rolling pins.
6 commentsJanuary 26th, 2007 at 09:56amPosted by Eli
A former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney gave testimony in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Thursday that directly contradicted Mr. Libby’s version of events during a crucial period that is at the center of the perjury case against him.
Cathie Martin, Mr. Cheney’s former spokeswoman, testified that she had a clear memory of telling both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby that a prominent war critic’s wife worked for the C.I.A., days before he contends he first learned it from a reporter.
She testified that both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were intensely interested in Ms. Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had been sent to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger for his nuclear weapons program.
Ms. Martin, who no longer works for Mr. Cheney but remains at the White House as a communications assistant to the president, described how Mr. Libby had telephoned a senior Central Intelligence Agency official in her presence sometime in early July and asked about the Wilson trip. She said she was then put on the phone with Bill Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, who told her that Mr. Wilson went to Africa on behalf of the agency and that his wife worked there.
She testified that, later that day, in a meeting with Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney, she related the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the agency.
Mr. Libby is facing five felony counts that he lied when he told a grand jury and F.B.I. agents that he learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from reporters….
Over all, however, Ms. Martin was a self-assured witness whose testimony appeared to have frayed Mr. Libby’s version of events. She is also a loyal Republican who was recruited to work for the vice president by Mary Matalin, a close friend of both Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney.
She is married to Kevin Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and now works as the deputy director of communications for policy and planning for President Bush.
The good news is that her testimony further damages Libby’s credibility (as well as further implicating Cheney). The bad news is that her and her husband’s White House ties play right into Scooter Libby’s scapegoat defense, which Wells will use to spin and dismiss any testimony from Bush/Rove loyalists (Ari Fleischer, who testifies next, will fall into that category as well).
Also, I wonder if Wells will ask the question that came to my mind: Why is the spokesman for the CIA telling people who its agents are? Did the CIA want that information to get out there? Does that make any sense?
FDL is probably all over this angle, but I can’t access it from my Treo any more…