Archive for January 31st, 2007

(Almost) All The President’s Men

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 comments January 31st, 2007 at 08:17pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Libby/Plame,Politics,Wankers

The Bulldozerer
Dubya probably should have watched this first. (Knowledge of German not required, but not work-safe or suitable for the squeamish)

By now, a lot of you have probably heard about the preznit’s exciting day at the Very Hungry Caterpillar factory, wherein he got to drive the Great Big Bulldozer:

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 comments January 31st, 2007 at 03:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Politics,Wankers

Another Multi Medium Fan!

Looks like James Banford reads my blog, too…

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 comments January 31st, 2007 at 12:31pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Politics,Wankers

Obviously Multi Medium Fans

Woohoo! Schumer and Obama read my blog!

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.)

January 31st, 2007 at 11:42am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics

Quote Of The Day

From the NY Daily News’s blog coverage of Superbowl “Media Day”:

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.

Um. Wow.

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?

January 31st, 2007 at 07:44am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Sports

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging… X2!

It’s Two-Fer Wednesday! Because I couldn’t decide, and they’re both pretty short.

First, a new trend in urban strife:

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.”

And in health/religion news:

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 comments January 31st, 2007 at 07:16am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

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