Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SMU Theology School Opposes Bush Presidenshal Libary

Last month, it was announced that plans were underway for the George W. Bush Presidential Library -- an epic project of unprecedented cost, designed not to make presidential papers available to the public, but to perpetuate a heroic (in other words, false) legacy for the idiot monster. The New York Daily News reported that the Bush library would cost a half billion dollars, or double what Bush raised for his 2004 campaign.

The Bush library is to be located at Southern Methodist University, and will include a right-wing think tank modeled on the Hoover Institution. The group's role will be to recruit conservative academics and historians, and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," an insider told the Daily News in November. "The more you have, the more influence you can exert" on history. Among the potential "mega-donors" are "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations, and captains of industry."

At the time, I wrote:

"Compared to the subversion of our Constitution, the increased vulnerability to disaster, and the criminal slaughter of hundreds of thousands, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. But still, it's been there, in the back of our minds, ever since the moment a malicious nitwit named George W. Bush stole the American presidency. Some day, we realized, this asshole is going to have a Presidential Library."

"The George W. Bush Presidenshal Libary," NERO FIDDLED 11/27/06

Now, there is serious opposition to the library from SMU itself. Texas Monthly senior executive editor Paul Burka has obtained a copy of a December 16 letter "from 'Faculty, Administrators, & Staff' of the Perkins School of Theology to R. Gerald Turner, president of the Board of Trustees," which is "now circulating not only on the SMU campus but also among a wider academic community, urging the board to 'reconsider and to rescind SMU's pursuit of the presidential library.'"

Burka's blog has the following excerpts:

"We count ourselves among those who would regret to see SMU enshrine attitudes and actions widely deemed as ethically egregious: degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends.

"[T]hese violations are antithetical to the teaching, scholarship, and ethical thinking that best represents Southern Methodist University.

"Another matter that warrants our attention is that whether it aims to or not SMU will, in the long run, financially profit on the backs of hard-working Americans who feel squashed by policies they've now rejected at the polls. Surely it's not the case that SMU will allow itself to benefit financially from a name and legacy that globally is associated with suffering, death, and political 'bad faith.' Taken together, all these issues set decision-making about the Library in a framework of inescapable ethical questions, and remind us of a key imperative adopted by many leading universities around the globe: 'to be critic and conscience of society.'"

Burka writes:

"The model for a presidential library is the one right here in Austin. To Lyndon Johnson's credit, he wanted the library to be a place where, as he said at the dedication in 1971, history could be seen 'with the bark off.' Unlike other presidential libraries -- Nixon's and Kennedy's come to mind -- there is no history here of the library administration treating historians it regards as unfavorable to the president differently from historians who are favorable. Ironically, the LBJ library has probably done more to advance the reputation of its subject more than any other presidential library -- not by design, but simply by releasing his telephone tapes into the public sphere. That's the way history is supposed to work."


Violence in Iraq is at an all-time high; approval for Bush's handling of Iraq is at an all-time low, and the Joint Chiefs are unanimously opposed to sending more troops.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Bush: Resolute, Even if it Kills Us All

In Saturday's interesting Washington Post article about Bush's stubbornness, many a question is posed about whether George W. will ever listen to what is being shouted into his ear by everyone else on Earth. Well, not everyone. "I just don't believe that this president, with this vice president whispering in his ear every moment, is oriented to change," administration defector Lawrence Wilkerson told the Post. "And even if he were, I don't believe his administration is capable of implementing change."

Wilkerson was once chief of staff to Colin Powell, whose supposed integrity did much to convince some that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Powell, a haunted man, now tells Bob Schieffer that "we are losing" (but "we haven't lost"), and that "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work." The Army and Marine Corps, according to Powell, are "not large enough for the kinds of missions they're being asked to perform." He even concedes that the Iraq disaster has made us "a little less safe," though he says this in reference to the thinning of military resources, not the spread of terrorism.

So it's one more respected, allegedly moderate voice, saying the same thing. And every time someone with expertise and gravitas steps forward and says this, the media refrain is, "But will Bush listen?" Saturday's Post finds Bush cheering people up at Christmas parties: "Don't worry, it's not as bad as it looks." "But he's not a fool," an anonymous friend says in the article. "He knows how bad all this is, trust me...I know he's got a lot of second thoughts about how he got there. Anybody would." Obviously, Bush is a fool, but I'm sure it's true that his public face is not the same as his private one. "There is some resignation that this is where he finds himself," the friend says. Resignation is exactly what we need.

A few months ago, Bush told conservative journalists, "I'm oftentimes asked about, 'Well, you're stubborn,' and all this. If you believe in a strategy, in Washington, D.C., you've got to stick to that strategy, see?" The president must be resolute! Regardless of what everyone else in the world (except maybe Dick Cheney) is saying! Regardless of how many people have to die!

Obviously, Bush is concerned about his legacy. The Iraq catastrophe will be inherited by the next president, who will be a convenient scapegoat for future reflections on Bush's colossal and tragic failure. He's hoping his legacy will be that he was resolute, no matter what. That George W. Bush, we'll say. We never had a president quite as resolute as he. He was so resolute, he was practically a dictator.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ralph Piss Live Performance Debut

Right-Wing Comedian Was Terrible

Last night marked the live performance debut of Ralph Piss, an obnoxious right-wing commentator and blogger whose career I have abetted, for reasons which are not entirely clear even to me. (You can learn more about him at his website, Piss on America. Also see "About Ralph Piss," NERO FIDDLED 11/16/06.) At Mr. Piss's request, I was not present for his performance. But I saw the video, and well, he was terrible. (Piss claims it was "a huge success.") Material from last night's debut will be included in the upcoming documentary Who is Ralph Piss? In the meantime, here are some excerpts:


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Doubling Down

Those conservatives are too much! I mean, when they're not slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, they're claiming that soy products will make you gay! The right wing of this country is in disarray. They put all their eggs in one basket, and George W. Bush makes a lousy basket.

The unsurprising announcement that no new Iraq strategy will be announced until after January 1 has gone down in flames -- partly because the Pentagon wants to send more troops. The Pentagon describes this strategy -- I'm not kidding -- as "doubling down."

'Cause if we put the word "down" in it, people won't notice the word "doubling." If you're not really listening, it might sound like we're ending the war and brining the troops home. It'll be great as long as nobody is paying attention.

Bush supposedly "has decided the general direction he wants to take U.S. policy on Iraq," but his administration is "locked in internal debates on several fronts about how to proceed."

John McCain supports "doubling down." He supports the war, and contends that the reason it's become such a mess is that not enough troops were sent in the first place. As a presidential candidate, McCain can probably sell that notion to Republicans. But what makes McCain seem so formidable, as a candidate, is that Democrats and moderates have always respected him -- and that respect has by now eroded into nothing. His support for the war, and his desire to send more troops, are now liabilities. But more than that, his efforts to woo social conservatives and evangelical fanatics haven't been working. The social conservatives and evangelical fanatics are rallying around Sam Brownback, and McCain has ceded the center.

Mitt Romney, another Republican who would like to be president, has had to spend a lot of time lately reassuring the base that he hates gay people. In 1994, when he was challenging Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat, Romney wrote, in a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans: "I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gays and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent." He committed what is a serious crime in social conservative circles -- the crime of tolerance. And now he has to answer for it. "I am concerned," Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich told the Boston Herald, "and I do think he needs to explain this, because he either is or isn't in favor of the homosexual agenda and we need to know before we would get involved in his candidacy."

And Romney's gay rights backpedaling is nothing compared to the 180 Rudolph Giuliani would have to pull off, to become a viable presidential nominee in the eyes of the right-wing base.

What do you call it when a prospective Republican presidential candidate disavows past statements, in order to make himself look like more of an extremist?

Doubling down.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Emotional Baggage

Last month there was a story about one Cynthia Hoag of Dansville, New York -- a Republican and a former Army reservist. She was at the Greater Rochester International Airport, when, in the words of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "she saw a soldier's flag-draped casket put into a cart with passengers' baggage last month at the airport, shocking her and other onlookers." "Officials" denied the story. Northwest Airlines released a reassuring statement, making clear that "all Northwest employees have the deepest respect for the sacrifices that members of the Armed Service have made, and work diligently to see that they and their families are shown the respect, care and compassion they so richly deserve." Eventually, the Pentagon released a statement promising that "at no time were the soldier's remains moved with other luggage or baggage." It reminded me of a similar story around this time last year, and of one of Ted Rall's most brilliant and disturbing cartoons:


Obama, Clinton, and Ralph Piss

Barack Obama is said to be inching toward a presidential run -- and if the media's storyline is accurate, that may be why Hillary Clinton says she won't decide until after the first of the year.

Lots of people are saying they just don't think America is ready to elect a black president or a female president. I don't think that's a valid point. This is to say nothing of the general electability of Obama or Clinton specifically. But in all likelihood, the 2008 presidential election will be very close, another 51-to-49, no matter who the candidates are. Anyone who's not ready for a black or female president is going to vote Republican anyway.

As we've said before, it was a little scary watching Hillary Clinton march unfettered toward the nomination for all those months. I've always liked her; my only real problem with her is recent -- her cloying, insincere rightward drift. She might be a good president, I don't know. But she is (all together now) a polarizing figure, possible anathema to centrists, etc.

Then there's Obama. He's more exciting and dynamic, and the far right hasn't had fifteen years to build a groundswell of hate toward him. The biggest problem with his possible candidacy might not be the fact that he's black, but the fact that he's green. And the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama. America could elect a president named Barack Hussein Obama, but boy, are the bad right-wing jokes going to be relentless.


And speaking of bad, relentless right-wing jokes, I regret to report that the obnoxious conservative zealot known as Ralph Piss is about to make his live performance debut, in an attempt to prove that Republicans can be funny on purpose. Mr. Piss will deliver a twenty-minute set, which will be filmed for an upcoming documentary called Who is Ralph Piss? Following his performance, audience members will be interviewed for possible inclusion in the documentary.

He performs this Wednesday night, December 13. He says that seating is limited, because they're "filled to the gills with V.I.P.s," but if you're going to be in New York City on Wednesday night and you're interested in attending, you can e-mail Ralph Piss to make a reservation.

Ralph Piss is a right-wing fanatic who I met some time ago, and whose career I have assisted with, for reasons which are unclear even to me. If you want some background on Ralph Piss, you can follow the story on this blog, and on his blog, PISS ON AMERICA:

Ralph Piss, 11/14/06, The Height of Flip-Flopping: "Basically, a lefty blogger named Noah Diamond helped me put this website together, because he said he wanted a diversity of opinion, or some such liberal hokum. And now I read on his disgusting Dummycrat blog that he denies he has 'provided a forum for Piss.' In fact, he says he doesn't even know me. This is the absolute height of liberal elitism and flip-flopping, and it hurt..."

Noah, 11/16/06, About Ralph Piss: "Piss was persistent, and I have to say I was curious about him, so I agreed to help him get into the world of blogging. I wound up doing some simple design work for his site, too, and hosting his images and audio files. I know it seems strange that I would extend these generosities to someone whose ideas I oppose, but I thought it would be a nice thing to do, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation. I also must say, quite frankly, that I was fascinated by this obviously psychotic personality..."

Ralph Piss, 11/17/06, Dummycrat Diamond: Ralph Piss is Right: "I realize I'm gloating, but it is just so nice to be totally vindicated. As you may know, my fellow Americans, I have had a conflict with a Dummycrat blogger named Noah Diamond. This lefty doesn't know the first thing about politics, and he definitely hates America and all that our forefathers fought and died for, but he is good with computers. So I asked him to help set up this website for me. Then, suddenly, he denied that he even knew me...But now...in a tear-soaked apology...Dummycrat Diamond has EATEN HIS WORDS, and made clear that the voice of reason and truth...[is] the Voice of Piss. 'Ralph Piss is right,' he says. Oh, mama, let's hear it again! 'RALPH PISS IS RIGHT,' HE SAYS. Sweet, sweet shame...!"

Noah, 12/1/06, Fox News Channel Plans Comedy Show: "First, Joel Surnow impressed a lot of people as the co-creator of the highly-acclaimed, nerve-wracking realtime drama 24. Then, he became known, in the words of Jon Ponder, as 'one of three guests at Rush Limbaugh's Viagra stag party.' And now he has sunk even lower. Surnow, the news says, 'is shooting two half-hour pilots of a skein he described as "The Daily Show for conservatives," due to air in primetime on Saturdays in January.' The show will be hosted by Kurt Long and Susan Yeagley. (Argash: 'I'm sorry but who?') The untitled program...will air, of course, on the Fox News Channel. So Fox now has the opportunity to do for satire what it did for news."

Ralph Piss, 12/2/06, Ralph Piss is Funny -- And Willing to Prove It: "Well, it's no surprise that the Dummycrat liberal bloggers are fit to be waterboarded. It's terrifying to them that Fox, the most trusted name in news, could become the most trusted name in comedy as well. Soon Fox will be the most trusted name in everything, and nobody will trust any other names ever again...Dummycrat Diamond is so upset, he even says that Republicans can't be funny! Well, I say HA! THAT SOUNDS LIKE A CHALLENGE!...To prove that Republicans can be funny, I, Ralph Piss, will deliver twenty minutes of sparkling right-wing wit, in person, at an undisclosed Manhattan location on the holy night of Wednesday, December 13...LEFT-WING DOMINANCE OF AMERICAN COMEDY ENDS ON DECEMBER 13!"

And that's the story so far. I don't know what's going to happen on Wednesday night, and apparently I won't know until the documentary is completed -- Mr. Piss has made it very clear that I am not invited to attend his performance, and that if I try, I will be forcibly removed from the building.

But you can attend, if you really want to. And if for some reason you're hungry for more Piss right now, he would want me to tell you that his blog includes audio recordings and right-wing jokes, and also that you can be his friend on MySpace.


The Great Tom DeLay Blog Intrigue

It's only been going on for one day. But I think the Great Tom DeLay Blog Intrigue will be remembered for a long time, at least in the blogosphere. Here's the story.

It began during more innocent, carefree times; it began yesterday. Yesterday, some of the older folks in the audience will remember, was the day former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- last seen being indicted on campaign money-laundering charges, resigning in disgrace, and telling people who to vote for on Dancing with the Stars -- started his very own blog.

"I have created this blog," he wrote then, "in order to provide Americans with a new meeting place...a place where conservative and traditionalist Americans might speak truth to power and to one another." He confides that he "did not fully realize the impact or potential of the blogosphere until very recently," thanks to "the fine people" at redstate.com, where he'd been invited to post some post-election ire.

The first mention of the new tomdelay.com came on Friday, from U.S. News and World Report's Paul Bedard ("Washington Whispers"). Bedard wrote that DeLay's blog would launch on Sunday -- ah, yesterday -- and would serve as a rallying cry and recruitment tool for GAIN. What is GAIN? Why, it's Tom DeLay's new "coalition," the Grassroots, Action, and Information Network! "Sources said the right-leaning Texan will give GAIN members insider information on the conservative movement and urge them to step in on key issues," Bedard wrote. "And Democrats need not apply: His site will have a way to filter them out." How that would work might boggle the mind for days.

But if you go to tomdelay.com now, it being Monday at all, you won't see DeLay's welcome post, nor will you read the one in which he called Jimmy Carter "perhaps our nation's worst President" and misspelled Apartheid. Nor will you read the hundreds of nasty, scathing, sometimes hilarious comments left on DeLay's blog, almost instantly, by people who are not registered users of redstate.com. "Early Sunday evening," Raw Story reports, "the commenting function was disabled. In addition, DeLay's three initial posts at the blog were removed, with no explanations given for the removals."

Boldly to the rescue came a blogger named James J. Risser. Risser's blogs are Fuck Bush and Judith Miller is a Cunt. I think this is his too. Risser rescued DeLay's original blog post, along with 111 choice comments, and posted it at tomdelaydotcom.blogspot.com, where it can be read to this very day. Monday.

Risser introduces his capture as "a tribute to the 75-minute period where tom delay actually received feedback from America. The experiment has now ended, but, this blog has taken a snap-shot, just for you."

DeLay's post reads like the rough draft of a bad floor speech. It's the user comments that move me. You really get a sense of how the American people feel about the former majority leader. "Nobody wants to hear from you, Tom Delay," wrote "Terry Olson." "Disappear. Suck on some dog eggs while you wait to go to prison." Also picking up on the incarceration theme, "e coli" wrote, "May your days in prison be filled with water-boarding, anal sodomy, and eye-liner. to be duke cuuningham's bitch is too good for you, you wretched little man."

Perhaps inspired by Samuel Beckett's ear for refrain, commenter "Wade F. Godot" wrote, "Tom, you are a disgusting piece of shit. Tom, you are a disgusting piece of shit. Tom, you are a disgusting piece of shit. Tom, you are a disgusting piece of shit." One of the more emotional comments was posted by "dead iraqi children," who cried, "you have killed 500,000 of us....from the grave we shout FUCK YOU TOM DELAY."

There were some surprise celebrity commenters, too -- not least of whom was Tom DeLay himself, apparently in a lighter mood than when he wrote the original post. "I like to smother myself in tapioca pudding," the former majority leader says in the comments section, "and play the bongos in front of the fireplace. Looking for S/W/M who shares same interests." Even Ann Coulter puts in a few words, directed at the other commenters: "GOD, I HATE YOU PEOPLE!!! mr delay wants a place for all those who love him and miss him to come and visit and leave notes of adoration, and, you, you LIBERAL SWINE, have ruined his opening...if i ever see any of you, i will BITE YOU IN THE NECK and poison you with my saliva."

It sure was fun, the Great Tom DeLay Blog Intrigue. But nothing lasts forever, and the past is in the past. We cannot return to yesterday, even if it just happened yesterday.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraq Study Group Study Guide


"I'm glad they got a study group together, but you know what? The test was three years ago."

Jon Stewart

"If we had had a commission like this, of heavyweights, who had spoken up so publicly and forcefully, when Lyndon Johnson was president ... the Vietnam War would have ended much earlier. The policy in Iraq is failing. The policy in the Middle East is failing. The president cannot walk away from those conclusions."

David Gergen, former adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton

TONY SNOW: Why don't you go back and read through some of these and I'll go ahead and deal with them. Go back on your notes there and give me the comments one at a time.

DAVID GREGORY: "'Stay the course' is no longer viable."

TONY SNOW: Okay, stop -- no, no, stop.

White House Press Briefing

"President Bush vowed yesterday to come up with 'a new strategy' in Iraq but expressed little enthusiasm for the central ideas of a bipartisan commission that advised him to ratchet back the U.S. military commitment in Iraq and launch an aggressive new diplomatic effort in the region.

"On the day after the congressionally chartered Iraq Study Group released its widely anticipated report, much of Washington maneuvered to pick out the parts they like and pick apart those they do not. The report's authors were greeted with skepticism on Capitol Hill, and Democratic leaders used the occasion to press Bush to change course without embracing the commission's particular recipe themselves.

"...'The American people expect us to come up with a new strategy to achieve the objective which I've been talking about,' Bush said. Yet, while the president called the Iraq Study Group's ideas 'worthy of serious study,' he seemed to dismiss the most significant ones point by point.

"...With the commission -- led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) -- having advanced 79 recommendations, Bush made clear that he intends to cherry-pick some and ignore others. 'I don't think Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton expect us to accept every recommendation,' Bush said. 'I think they expect us to consider every recommendation.'

"Actually, Baker and Hamilton said on Wednesday that they do want the president to accept the commission's plan as a whole, not simply pieces of it."

The Washington Post

"'Jim Baker is always an honest broker,' says former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein. 'If he can help the family and help other families, I think he really strikes a twofer.'

"It isn't the first time Baker has extended his hand to this president. Six years ago in Florida, he managed the legal strategy that delivered the White House for George W. Bush."

CBS News

TONY SNOW: But you need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the Group, itself, says it wanted to do. And so you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection, that's not the way they view it.

DAVID GREGORY: I just want to be clear. Are you suggesting that I'm trying to frame this in a partisan way?


DAVID GREGORY: You are? Based on the fact that --

TONY SNOW: Because --

DAVID GREGORY: Wait a minute, wait a second. Based on quoting the report and the Chairman, and I'm asking you a straight question, which you're not answering straight, you're actually --

TONY SNOW: No, I am --

DAVID GREGORY: -- you're trying to answer it by --

TONY SNOW: No, here's the --

DAVID GREGORY: -- nitpicking it.


DAVID GREGORY: You're suggesting that by quoting the report, I'm trying to make a partisan argument?

TONY SNOW: Let me put it this way. Where in the report -- what you have said is, can you read this as anything other than a repudiation of policy. And the answer is, I can.

White House Press Briefing

"I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal."

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon)

"Americans see no easy exit from Iraq: Just 9 percent expect the war to end in clear-cut victory, compared with 87 percent who expect some sort of compromise settlement, according to the latest AP-Ipsos poll...Dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent, according to the AP-Ipsos survey."

Associated Press

"SURRENDER MONKEYS -- Iraq panel urges U.S. to give up -- IRAQ 'APPEASE' SQUEEZE ON W. -- PANEL KISSES UP TO IRAN & SYRIA -- PLAN WOULD PULL TROOPS OUT IN '08 -- The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations - but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home....Declaring the situation 'grave and deteriorating,' the high-powered commission proposed the United States talk directly to terror abettors Iran and Syria to get their cooperation, and commit to removing U.S. combat troops in early 2008."

New York Post

"The military recommendations issued yesterday by the Iraq Study Group are based more on hope than history and run counter to assessments made by some of its own military advisers. Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has struggled in vain to tamp down the violence in Iraq and to build up the capacity of Iraq’s security forces. Now the study group is positing that the United States can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three."

The New York Times


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Democrats Promise a Longer Work Week for Congress

Republicans Not Very Happy

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that members of Congress "should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to."

How brief has the week been, for the 109th Congress? The Post says that this year, the legislative week has generally begun late on Tuesday, and ended Thursday afternoon -- "and that was during the relatively few weeks the House wasn't in recess." This year, Congress wasn't even around long enough to approve basic spending bills. When the 109th Congress ends its term tomorrow, its members will have worked only 103 days. (The famously inert "Do-Nothing Congress" worked 110 days in 1948.)

"I have bad news for you," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) to reporters yesterday. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget 'em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th." The news did not go over well. "I know, it's awful, isn't it?" Hoyer joked. He'll be the House Majority Leader when the 110th Congress convenes, and he promises that votes will be held each week by 6:30 pm on Monday, and the week will continue until 2:00 pm on Friday: "We are going to meet sufficient times, so the committees can do their jobs on behalf of the American people."

Most Democrats are "game," according to the Post, but some Republicans sure are annoyed. Not only do you lose -- you also have to work harder! Congresspeople won't be able to spend quite so much time at home in their districts, which is good (because they'll spend more time governing than running for re-election) and bad (because they may more easily lose touch with the constituents they represent).

The ridiculous Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) has gotten used to a schedule which allowed him to fly home on Thursdays and return to D.C. on Tuesdays for a work week barely three days long. But he's not even making the argument that serving in Congress requires constant contact with the people who live in his district. He's making the argument that he simply prefers to stay home. "Keeping us up here eats away at families," Kingston complained. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

The Democrats could care less about families! That's what Jack Kingston has to say about the prospect of an actual five-day work week, for the people who have one of the most important jobs in the country. Presumably, Rep. Kingston, you ran for office so you could do some good for people other than you and your family. You're a member of Congress. You should be spending most of your time in Washington, helping to pass legislation that will improve the lives of all families. Only a Bush Republican could actually claim that Hoyer's call for a real work week is a Democratic ploy to tear apart the families of Republican congressmen.

"When I'm here [in Washington]," Kingston added, "people call me Mr. Congressman. When I'm home, people call me 'Jack, you stupid SOB, why did you vote that way?' It keeps me grounded." I see. Well, folks, we can all do our part to help keep Rep. Kingston grounded during the grueling Monday-to-Friday schedule he is about to endure. Let's be sure to contact him while he's in D.C. and say, "Jack, you stupid SOB, why did you vote that way?" His contact information is here.


They Use it to Detect Trip Wires

This is the most entertaining sentence I've read in an Associated Press article in a long time:

"The military is reluctant to talk about the use of Silly String, saying that discussing specific tactics will tip off insurgents."

More here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Faces of Global Terrorism

From The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire:

"The Bush administration plans to brighten up the holidays by distributing hundreds of colorful 'wanted terrorist posters' to U.S. airports across the country. 'More than 500 posters are on their way to major airports in New York City, Houston, Kansas City, Newark, Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,' says a State Department press release. 'Smaller airports across the country also requesting posters include those in Guam, Fairbanks, several cities in the Hawaiian Islands, Dayton, Myrtle Beach, Little Rock, San Antonio and Londonderry, N.H.'"

But when I looked at the actual poster, I was surprised at the administration's sloppiness. There are several important "faces of global terrorism" -- some of the worst, in fact -- inexplicably left off of the poster. To correct the problem, I've designed a supplemental second poster. Let's print these up and post them prominently! It will make us safer.


Monday, December 04, 2006

If You're Swearing to Uphold the Constitution...

. . . Take Your Hand Off That Bible

A few days after last month's midterm elections, it was reported that incoming Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) would "be sworn into the House of Representatives with his hand on a Koran." The news was greeted on the far right with a number of remarkable hissy-fits, notably that of columnist Dennis Prager. The confused Prager -- a Jew who advocates Christian theocracy, and an unexceptional American who advocates American exceptionalism -- published a ridiculous column riddled with inaccuracies. Ellison "should not be allowed" to take his oath of office on the Koran, Prager wrote, "not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization."

That's right, Operator -- undermines American civilization.

"First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

"Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

I'm willing to believe that Dennis Prager is not very smart, but I refuse to believe that he's dense and misguided enough to actually believe that "America" holds any book as "its holiest." Holy is obviously the wrong word, but if "America is interested in only one book" or document, that would be the Constitution -- which makes perfectly clear, in Article VI, that "Senators and Representatives...shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The Constitution casts rather a long shadow over Prager's laughable contention that "America, not [Ellison], decides on what book its public servants take their oath."

"But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard."

This is the kind of historical revisionism you have to resort to, if you're determined to keep making your point even though the facts disprove it. In reality, Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), carried the Book of Mormon at his swearing-in in 1997. President John Quincy Adams, a deeply religious man, was still wise enough to take his Presidential Oath of Office not on the Bible but on the Constitution -- which obviously makes more sense. Theodore Roosevelt, in 1901, also chose to take the oath without a Bible. In 1961, JFK used a Catholic Douay Bible, and even The Washington Times concedes that "Several Jewish members of Congress have taken their oath on the Torah."

Nevertheless, Dennis Prager blathers on:

"When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11."

I had to read that paragraph a few times before I could believe that Prager was actually saying what he seemed to be saying. But he is. If Keith Ellison takes his oath of office with his hand on the Koran, Prager claims to believe, this will be more damaging to America than the 9/11 attacks. It is with this pronouncement, really, that Dennis Prager loses all credibility forever. "American-hating" Islamic extremists, he says, will read Ellison's swearing-in as "the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America." Hoo boy!

But as it turns out, even the original report was wrong. On Friday, a McClatchy Newspapers article reminded us that "during official swearing-in ceremonies, elected members don't place their hands on any books. It's up to individual members, however, if they want to carry sacred texts." Senate historian Don Ritchie says, "Some members carry a Bible. You don't actually put your hand on a Bible. I can't see how anyone would object to carrying a Koran." Ellison's campaign manager, Dave Colling, told Cybercast News, "No one has ever taken the oath of office in Congress with a Bible, a Koran, a Torah or anything else...They all raise their right hands and repeat the oath that's prescribed in the Constitution."

On November 9, The New York Times reported, "Arab news reports highlighted the fact that Mr. Ellison would probably take the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere. Some suggested it meant he would pledge allegiance to Islamic law rather than to upholding the Constitution." Now, let's say members of Congress did get sworn in on the "holy" books of their choices. Why would Ellison's use of a Koran "pledge allegiance to Islamic law rather than to upholding the Constitution," while a Christian politician can use the Bible and not be accused of pledging allegiance to Christian law rather than American law? I think that's a pretty reasonable argument, and since the Constitution says nothing about any public official being sworn in on a Bible, I'd think that all those Republicans who claim to be "Constitutional originalists" would quickly excise this incongruous practice from our carefully secular system.

"After the House swearing-in ritual is completed," says Cybercast News, "brief sessions are held so individual members of the chamber can be photographed with the speaker. Most participants at this point reportedly choose to adopt the traditional pose of placing their hand on a Bible." Drew Hammill, spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, says, "That's a mock ceremony, so it's not official. Members can bring in the local press, or they can do a photo op with their family, but that's not their actual swearing in."

It's a mock ceremony. Putting your hand on any religion's "holy book" when you swear to uphold the Constitution -- whether everyone does it or not -- is a mockery of the Constitution itself.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Exit? Maybe. Graceful? Never.

People sure are excited about the impending recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group! The Washington Post reports that the group "plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis."

The combat pullout "would be more a conditional goal than a firm timetable, predicated on the assumption that circumstances on the ground would permit it." (Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki: "I can say that Iraqi forces will be ready, fully ready to receive this command and to command its own forces, and I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready.") A source close to the study told the Post spoke of "transitioning from a combat to a support role, and basically making very clear that this is no longer an open-ended commitment...Everybody understands that we're at the end of the road here."

Well, not quite everybody. "I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," says George W. Bush. "This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever." Exit? Maybe. Graceful? Never.

"In private," says The New York Times, "some members of the Iraq Study Group have expressed concern" about "confrontation with Mr. Bush." One participant says, "He's a true believer. Finessing the differences is not going to be easy." A senior official told the Post that Bush was simply "not entering this process with defeat on his mind," and that's easy to believe. The question is whether there's anything on his mind at all.

The whole idea of the Iraq Study Group, it seemed, was to give Bush an opportunity to save a little face. He's said nothing but "stay the course" all this time, but the election clearly showed little public or official support for that. But with Lee Hamilton and James Baker and other heavies recommending a phased withdrawal, Bush would be able to tiptoe away from his unyielding stance, and come out of it looking receptive to expert opinion, as opposed to just stubborn. But no. Remember, this is a man who just got back from Hanoi, where he said that the lesson he'd learned from the Vietnam War was "We'll succeed unless we quit."

"In fact," says one USA Today editorial, "all the U.S. options look bad." Remaining at current troop levels "offers little hope of anything but more of the same;" sending more troops "has little public or political support and offers no guarantee that it would work any better than sending half a million troops to Vietnam did a generation ago;" withdrawal "has potentially enormous costs" including "an emboldened al-Qaeda," increased influence of Iran, and "U.S. credibility...undercut worldwide."

So, yes, there is no good option. But look on the bright side -- if there were, Bush wouldn't listen to it anyway.


Fox News Channel Plans Comedy Show

It's Not Going to Be Very Funny

First, Joel Surnow impressed a lot of people as the co-creator of the highly-acclaimed, nerve-wracking realtime drama 24. Then, he became known, in the words of Jon Ponder, as "one of three guests at Rush Limbaugh’s Viagra stag party." And now he has sunk even lower. Surnow, the news says, "is shooting two half-hour pilots of a skein he described as 'The Daily Show for conservatives,' due to air in primetime on Saturdays in January." The show will be hosted by Kurt Long and Susan Yeagley. (Argash: "I'm sorry but who?") The untitled program -- it was to be called This Just In, but that was taken -- will air, of course, on the Fox News Channel. So Fox now has the opportunity to do for satire what it did for news.

Just listening to Surnow talk about it makes clear how sad this is going to be. "The way I look at it," he says, "almost every comedy show or satire show I see uses the same talking points against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The other side hasn't been skewered in a fair and balanced way." Where to begin -- and is it even worth it? Those aren't "talking points" you're hearing on "almost every comedy show or satire show;" those are jokes, topical jokes, and inevitably many of them will sound the same. ("There will be some elements of The Daily Show and some of 'Weekend Update,'" says Surnow. Oh, I'm sure there will.)

But when Surnow says, "The other side hasn't been skewered in a fair and balanced way," that's when you realize it's hopeless. Right, Joel, because no "comedy show or satire show" ever made fun of Bill Clinton. Plus he uses the phrase "fair and balanced" as though it were ironic, but because his "comedy show or satire show" is actually a production of the Fox News Channel, it isn't. Actually, the truth is: it's twice as ironic as he thinks it is, only he doesn't realize it.

The right wing is not big on irony. They might demonstrate it sometimes, but being a hypocrite doesn't make you a satirist. The right wing is also not big on art. Of course, there are exceptions, always. But in general, great art and great entertainment are products of liberal minds, and any credible list of classics proves this. (For more on this theme, see my thoughts on The Path to 9/11, part one and part two.)

Comedy, perhaps, is particularly left-wing, by nature. Certainly its greatest heroes have been. How many great right-wing comics can you name? There's Bob Hope, I guess. Dennis Miller is an interesting example -- he was once a sharp and witty commentator in the wily libertarian mold, and then grew increasingly right-wing and decreasingly funny. Some of the "Blue Collar Comedy" guys could be described as right wing, but that doesn't count for much, since they're generally not political and generally not funny. Most right-wing comedy looks like this.

The best of South Park is some of the best comedy of our time, and it takes no prisoners on the right nor the left; Trey Parker is a registered Libertarian and Matt Stone is apparently a Republican, and yet the show still feels liberal, somehow. Because it's funny. That's why commentator Andrew Sullivan's attempt, a few years ago, to coin the term "South Park Republican" fell on its face.

Good comedy is simply not born of ideology, and I say this as a writer and performer of ideological comedy. The ideology doesn't come first. Good comedy is born of the desire to make people laugh; it's born of a chemical addition some of us have to the sound of laughter. "It’s a satirical news format," Joel Surnow says of his new show, "that would play more to the Fox News audience than the Michael Moore channel." What Surnow doesn't realize is that there is no Michael Moore channel. The shows you're talking about are mostly on Comedy Central, which is the comedy channel, not the liberal channel. Comedy itself is liberal. This is not to say that conservatives cannot create and enjoy comedy; of course they can. Just like liberals can get involved in ethics scandals.

Lizz Winstead and Madeline Smithberg, the creators of The Daily Show, didn't go into show business because they wanted to advocate liberal ideology. The show premiered in 1996, and mocked Clinton relentlessly for four years. The original host, Craig Kilborn, was replaced by Jon Stewart in 1999, just as George W. Bush was becoming a national figure. Had Kilborn remained on the show, I'm sure that he would have made fun of Bush. (It is fair to say that the Kilborn Daily Show was less smart and less politically hip than it is with Stewart. Kilborn had an amusing glibness, but he was no great wit. He was once described by a co-worker, incidentally, as "dumb as a post.") But Jon Stewart isn't where he is because he had a dream of becoming famous and advancing left-wing views. Jon Stewart is a man addicted to laughter. He knows that the only way to feed his addiction is by being brilliantly, consistently intelligent and funny every night for years. Politics is incidental.

The Fox News Channel's "comedy show or satire show," according to Surnow, "would tip more right as The Daily Show tips left." But "it's not going to hit you over the head with partisan politics." Of course not! Not on Fox. "Everybody who is in power should get shots equally," says this titan of comedy. "By January, we will have a whole bunch of new people to do material about." Yes, but so will Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher, and Al Franken. And they're funny.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scalia: Stratosphere, Troposphere, Whatever

By way of The Washington Post, another entry in the Justice Antonin Scalia Appalling Moments series:

"Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James R. Milkey told the court that 200 miles of the state's coastline are threatened by rising seas, a result of global warming.

"'The harm does not suddenly spring up in the year 2100; it plays out continuously over time,' Milkey said in answer to Scalia's question. 'Once these gases are emitted . . . they stay a long time -- the laws of physics take over.'

"Milkey faced skeptical questioning from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court's newest members, but the most sustained -- and entertaining -- interrogation came from Scalia.

"At one point, he acknowledged the role of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the air but wondered about it being a pollutant in the 'stratosphere.'

"'Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere,' Milkey said.

"'Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist,' Scalia said to laughter. 'That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.'"

When I became a Supreme Court Justice, I didn't think I was gonna have to get involved in ISSUES!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Please, Al Gore, Run for President

I Am Practically Begging You

As I survey the list of possible Democratic contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination -- Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Kerry, Vilsack, Biden -- I grow ever more wishful that Al Gore would run. As he's been saying for over a year now, he doesn't plan on running, but he hasn't ruled it out. He won't make a Sherman statement. ("If nominated, I will not run," William Tecumseh Sherman once said; "if elected, I will not serve.")

In a new GQ interview, coinciding with the release of An Inconvenient Truth on DVD, Gore is in his witty, chatty mode, as he has been since returning to the spotlight. Here are his comments on 9/11 (I've omitted the cutesy parenthetical notes inserted by GQ, including one which informs us that Gore is "practically screaming now"):

"Okay, on to 9-11. What were you really feeling? Was there a part of you that felt a sense of relief that you weren’t in charge that day?
You mean a sense of relief that I didn’t have to deal with it? Oh no. Not at all. Not for one second. Not for one second. Why would I? I mean, well first of all, it just didn’t occur to me to feel anything like that. What did occur to me was to feel what every American felt, the outrage and anger and righteous anger, and support for the President at a time of danger… And, honestly, I was focused on the reality of the situation. And I wasn’t president, so, you know, it wasn’t about me. Now, I do wish, now that we have some distance from the events, and we have all this knowledge about what this administration did do, I certainly feel that I wish that it had been handled differently, and I do wish that I had somehow been able to prevent some of the catastrophic mistakes that were made.

"Do you feel that we would be safer today if you had been president on that day?
Well, no one can say that the 9-11 attack wouldn’t have occurred whoever was president.

"Really? How about all the warnings?
That’s a separate question. And it’s almost too easy to say, 'I would have heeded the warnings.' In fact, I think I would have, I know I would have. We had several instances when the CIA’s alarm bells went off, and what we did when that happened was, we had emergency meetings and called everybody together and made sure that all systems were go and every agency was hitting on all cylinders, and we made them bring more information, and go into the second and third and fourth level of detail. And made suggestions on how we could respond in a more coordinated, more effective way. It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, 'Well, you’ve covered your ass.' And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don’t understand it. And, I think it’s fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job. And now the Woodward book has this episode that has been confirmed by the record that George Tenet, who was much abused by this administration, went over to the White House for the purpose of calling an emergency meeting and warning as clearly as possible about the extremely dangerous situation with Osama bin Laden, and was brushed off! And I don’t know why—honestly—I mean, I understand how horrible this Congressman Foley situation with the instant messaging is, okay? I understand that. But, why didn’t these kinds of things produce a similar outrage? And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!

"But how do you really feel?
(cracks up)

"What’s the nicest thing you can say about George Bush?
He made a terrific appointment of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"OK, is there a second best thing?
I can’t think of another one, actually."

At this point, Gore has made the I'm-not-planning-on-running-but-I-won't-rule-it-out statement so many times that if he does decide to run, he's going to need a convincing reason for the change of heart. Luckily for him, the convincing reasons seem to flow every time he sits down for an interview. The idea of President Gore is so soothing, so healing...it would feel like the correction of a great mistake, a second chance at what might have been. What's clear is that of all the Democrats eyeing 2008, none seems to have quite the authority, intelligence, and gravitas of the guy the American people already elected in 2000.


Webb Snubs Bush

Source Tells The Hill : "He Was Tempted to Slug the Commander-in-Chief"

On the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House, at a recent reception for incoming members of Congress, Jim Webb (D-Virginia) was trying to avoid a confrontation. Webb is a decorated Marine, a former boxer, and a former Republican. On the campaign trail, he was a brash presence, sharply criticizing Bush and the war, all while wearing his son's combat boots. (Webb's son is also a Marine, serving in Iraq right now.) His narrow victory over George Allen this month shifted control of the Senate to the Democratic Party.

But a White House reception is a time for civility, and the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, and all that. So Webb, according to The Washington Post, "tried to avoid President Bush." Webb "declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man...But it wasn't long before Bush found him."

"'How's your boy?' Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"'I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,' Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"'That's not what I asked you,' Bush said. 'How's your boy?'

"'That's between me and my boy, Mr. President,' Webb said coldly, ending the conversation..."

The Hill reports that "Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief," according to "the source." It's probably good that Webb restrained himself, and I do have some ideological reservations about him. But it's nice to see a freshman senator who's willing to cut through the bullshit. "My boy is fine, sir, thank you for asking," is what Bush expected to hear. Because Bush is delusional. To him, it was like Cindy Sheehan walked into the East Wing.

"I'm not particularly interested in having a picture of me and George W. Bush on my wall," Webb told the Post. "No offense to the institution of the presidency, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him and his administration. [But] leaders do some symbolic things to try to convey who they are and what the message is." And the message is not that all politicians must soften their edges once they're in the club. The message is that terrible things have been done in the name of our country, and the people responsible must be held accountable. By snubbing Bush, Webb increased his own credibility, and emphasized his cherished status as a Beltway outsider. Well-played.

The antithesis of Webb's sincere anger, of course, was offered by the White House. "As a general matter," said spokeswoman Dana M. Perino, "we do not comment on private receptions hosted by the president at the White House." As a general matter? What the hell does that mean? Do you comment on private receptions hosted by the president anywhere? Can you confirm that Webb wanted to "slug" Bush? I'm pretty sure I can confirm that he is not alone in this desire.


Frist Won't Run for President

The Bible Told Him Not To; I'm Starting to Like the Bible

National Journal's blog reports -- and The Hill confirms -- that Bill Frist will not run for president in 2008. Instead of seeking the White House in Washington, he will spend more time at the fake White House he built for himself in Nashville.

In a statement released this morning, Frist says, "In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and my season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008." Exit Bill Frist, ladies and gentlemen -- randomly spewing irrelevant Biblical references right to the end. His statement says that "a return to private life will allow me to return to my professional roots as a healer, and to refocus my creative energies on creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges Americans face."

Those challenges do seem insurmountable at times, Dr. Frist. But now that you're leaving the Senate, and the threat of a Frist presidency has been lifted, I think we have a much better chance.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

CQ Columnist: Will Cheney Resign?

Last week, writing about the downfall of Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Novak revealed that "only three or four people knew he would be fired -- and Rumsfeld was not one of them." Others in the White House "were taken aback by his treatment," especially "his friend and comrade, Vice President Cheney" who "is reported to be profoundly disturbed."

Sunday's Boston Globe had an excellent article by Charlie Savage, tracing Cheney's career in Washington, with particular emphasis on his long fight for unlimited executive powers. ("I do think that to some extent now, we've been able to restore the legitimate authority of the presidency," he said recently.) Savage reminds us that the Cheney/Rumsfeld bond runs deep. Rumsfeld gave Cheney his first job in the federal government, as an assistant at the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969. After Nixon's resignation, Gerald Ford made Rumsfeld his White House chief of staff, and Rumsfeld hired Cheney as his deputy; in 1975, when Rumsfeld became the youngest secretary of defense in American history, Cheney took over as Ford's chief of staff.

In 2001, when Rumsfeld became the oldest secretary of defense in American history, the only new kid on the block was George W. Bush. The most powerful men in Washington were the two old pals, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and Bush's puppetmaster, Karl Rove. These days, the guys aren't as merry as they were then. Rumsfeld's sacking, the disaster of Iraq, and the slow awakening of the American public have worn heavily on them; Novak even describes Cheney as "melancholy."

It's still impossible to imagine Cheney resigning. This is why it's so surprising that Congressional Quarterly senior columnist Craig Crawford told Chris Matthews, "I still wonder if [Cheney] stays in this administration for the full term here. I really wonder if Rumsfeld's leaving is just the beginning." Crawford said that Cheney's authority is "waning, if not gone...He might just choose to leave."

This was a bit too much for Chris Matthews, who asked, "Are you teasing? Are you -- do you actually think there's a reasonable plausible case for this Vice President to give up all the power he enjoys as the President's first counsel?" Crawford: "...All I'm seeing is the man getting isolated more and more."

Crawford doesn't seem too sure of himself, and there's little reason to suspect a Cheney resignation is imminent. But rumors to that effect, even if they're completely unfounded, are catnip for wonks. The 2008 presidential field remains wide open (a new poll gives high marks to Giuliani, Obama, and McCain, and low marks to Gingrich, Frist, and Kerry), and the sitting Vice President is certain not to run. If Cheney did step down, the administration would nominate a replacement, who would then be subject to approval by the Senate. The new Vice President would be an automatic frontrunner for the 2008 Republican nomination.


Monday, November 27, 2006

The George W. Bush Presidenshal Libary

Compared to the subversion of our Constitution, the increased vulnerability to disaster, and the criminal slaughter of hundreds of thousands, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. But still, it's been there, in the back of our minds, ever since the moment a malicious nitwit named George W. Bush stole the American presidency. Some day, we realized, this asshole is going to have a Presidential Library.

We tried to cheer ourselves up by joking about it, and surely there has been no more obvious set-up in the history of comedy. Let's go to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and read the book! The fact that Bush would eventually have a library has come into sharper focus every so often. We thought of it early in his presidency, when he blocked his father's presidential papers from public light. We thought of it again just after the 2004 election, when President Clinton's library grandly opened, and both Bushes and all their friends had to go and politely applaud, and it was raining, and Clinton was eloquent, and for a moment you forgot that Bush was about to further demolish the world in a second term.

Then, just a couple of months ago, we heard the hilarious news that an elementary school in Stockton, California had chosen to call itself George W. Bush Elementary School. "When I pulled in the parking lot and I saw George W. Bush Elementary," Bush said during a visit to Stockton, "I couldn't think of a higher tribute to a person...Frankly, I was a little emotional when I pulled in." (See NERO FIDDLED, 10/4/06.) The idea that a school, or a library, or anything relating to the human mind would be named for George W. Bush is irresistible, if you like your irony dark.

Now that Bush's presidency is in tatters, he and his acolytes are eager to shape (falsify) his legacy. The New York Daily News reports today that Bush hopes to raise an unprecedented half billion dollars for his shrine, which is to be located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "Bush partisans," writes Thomas M. DeFrank, "are determined to have a massive pile of endowment cash to spread the gospel of a presidency that for now gets poor marks from many scholars and a majority of Americans."

DeFrank notes that Bush is seeking to raise, for his library, double what he raised for his campaign in 2004. It "dwarfs" what other presidential libraries have cost. "It's a stretch," one insider close to the project said. "It's so much bigger than anything that's been tried before. But the more you have, the more influence you can exert" on history. Among the potential "mega-donors" are "wealthy heiresses, Arab nations, and captains of industry." And the names of donors are not required to be made public, which is very convenient for our terrorist president. You, too, can rewrite history -- anonymously! Give to the George W. Bush Presidential Library today!

A Presidential Library isn't just a repository of documents and exhibits; and it isn't just a custodian of legacy; it's often also a home base for public programs and political action. The Bush library is to include a right-wing think tank modeled on the Hoover Institution, whose role will be to recruit conservative academics and historians, and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," an insider told De Frank.

A formal site announcement will supposedly take place early in 2007. There is one good thing about the impending George W. Bush Presidential Library. When the horrific place opens, it will mean the horrific presidency has closed.


Iran to the Rescue

The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II. It's not going well at all. One CNN correspondent reports, "The place is a mess. It's an absolute mess...The amount of death that's on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an astronomical level."

Last week, Nouri Maliki -- the Prime Minister of Iraq, and a Shiite, appeared alongside Sunni leaders at a peace conference in Baghdad. When Maliki left the scene, his motorcade was stoned by fellow Shiites, demanding revenge against Sunnis for the recent Sadr City bombings. The mob accused Maliki of being a "coward" and a "collaborator" with the enemy (the Sunnis).

Today, the British government announced the withdrawal of "thousands" of British troops from Iraq by the end of 2007; Britain currently has 7,000 troops in Iraq. Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland, says the last of his country's 900 troops would also leave Iraq by the end of next year. And Italian Premier Romano Prodi will bring home the last of Italy's Iraq forces -- sixty or seventy soldiers -- this week.

The United States, of course, remains divided over whether to decrease troops, increase troops, increase and then decrease, etc. (See "Go Big But Short While Transitioning To Go Long," NERO FIDDLED, 11/20/06.) Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as National Security Advisor to President Carter, denounced the increase-then-decrease plan on TV this weekend. "It's a gimmick," Brzezinski said, "because it satisfies McCain, it satisfies the hardliners."

Independent of the troop-levels question is the oversight question. Incoming Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) has continued to call for more accountability. "As a new member of the Senate, and as a new member of the Armed Services Committee, I want to ask some questions," McCaskill says, "because this supplemental appropriation of $150 billion the President is going to ask for, clearly we need to have some accountability. People have gotten rich off this war, and I want to make sure we put a stop to that."

But don't worry -- help is on the way. Because when things get really bad, America can always count on the support of its closest ally -- Iran. Yes, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that the U.S. is "trapped in a quagmire," and Iran is "ready to help." "The Iranian nation is ready to help you to get out of the quagmire," Ahmadinejad says, "on condition that you resume behaving in a just manner and avoid bullying and invading." Now this is a lucky break. So all we have to do is avoid bullying and invading, and Iran will help us out? Who, I wonder, are they concerned we might bully and invade next?


Earth v. Bush

Representative John Dingell (D-Michigan), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has promised his committee will take on a number of investigations in the coming term. These include investigations into spending on government contractors in Iraq (notably Halliburton), and into Cheney's energy task force ("carefully cooked to provide only participation by oil companies and energy companies," Dingell says).

Meanwhile, there's this piece in the Washington Post, in which oil and energy companies say things like, "We have to deal with greenhouse gases...When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?" That was John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil. And here's John L. Stowell of Duke Energy: "If we had our druthers, we'd already have carbon legislation passed. Our viewpoint is that it's going to happen. There's scientific evidence of climate change." Even Exxon Mobil has suggested it may close the curtain on its own anti-environmental think tank.

The Post suggests that the energy companies have no choice but to "accept...the scientific consensus about climate change" because "the Democratic takeover of Congress makes it more likely that the federal government will attempt to regulate emissions." They're also concerned that without federal regulations, these issues will be left to the states, some of which are already coming up with their own emissions standards. Hofmeister says, "We cannot deal with 50 different policies. We need a national approach to greenhouse gases."

A number of Washington figures have expressed a strategy on global warming that's best described as "wait two years" -- it's hopeless while that guy is in the White House, but the next president, whoever it is, will automatically be a better steward of the environment, and more receptive to legislation designed to solve the problem. But this week, the Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could force the Bush regime to change its environmental policy.

Twelve states, along with a number of large cities and environmental groups, will argue that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate vehicles' carbon dioxide emissions; it's a matter of public health and safety. The Bush regime will counter that the Clean Air Act does not grant the EPA this regulatory authority. The Supreme Court won't hand down a decision until next year, but the administration's deaf ears on environmental issues are thought to have played a role in 2006 Republican losses, and they're going to have to choose their battles carefully.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Continuing Adventures of Big Bush and Little Bush

Meanwhile, George Herbert Walker Bush was in the United Arab Emirates, delivering what the Associated Press described as "a folksy address on leadership." He closed with a few thoughts about his son, Hold the Herbert. He did not expect the audience to express unanimous contempt for Hold the Herbert during the question-and-answer period.

"This son is not going to back away," the elder Bush said. ("His voice quivering," AP noted.) "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that," the elder Bush continued, "or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something." (I believe the former president is referring to Cindy Sheehan.) It went on: "You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."

And with that, the elder Bush -- oh, wait, there's more: "My son is an honest man. He is working hard for peace. It takes a lot of guts to get up and tell a father about his son in those terms when I just told you the thing that matters in my heart is my family." And: "When your son's under attack, it hurts. You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can." Besides: "How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?"

A folksy address on leadership had become a nightmare. When he took questions, a woman in the audience chose to make a statement: "We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world." According to the AP, "Bush appeared stunned as the audience of young business leaders whooped and whistled in approval." (Dubai "used to be safe territory for former president Bush, an oil man who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait in 1991.")

Of course, there is a drama going on in this country called Oedipus Bush, and it probably began on July 6, 1946. More recently, Hold the Herbert vowed to win the presidency to avenge his father's defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton; upon taking office, Hold the Herbert said he didn't take advice from With the Herbert but from "a higher father," and declared Ronald Reagan to be his role model. Eventually, With the Herbert was banished from Hold the Herbert's inner circle. Word got around that With the Herbert didn't think Hold the Herbert was doing such a good job, and that he was concerned about the family legacy. (See "Oedibush," NERO FIDDLED, 12/2/05). But no sooner had Hold the Herbert conceded to a Democratic "thumping" in the 2006 midterms than familiar faces from With the Herbert's crowd suddenly appeared: Baker, Scowcroft, Gates. (See Howard Fineman's excellent article in Newsweek.) Father and son were photographed together last week, and those pictures really got around; they were hot stuff.

Everyone denies that the elder Bush is wielding any kind of power whatsoever. He stresses that he is not affiliated with his son's administration in any way. (How could anyone think such a thing?) "I have strong opinions on a lot of these things," the taller Bush said in Abu Dhabi. "But the reason I can't voice them is, if I did what you ask me to do -- tell you what advice I give my son -- that would then be flashed all over the world. If it happened to deviate one iota, one little inch, from what the president's doing or thinks he ought to be doing, it would be terrible." Of course, he's absolutely right, from a political standpoint. As if to rub salt in junior's wounds, a new CNN poll shows that six in ten Americans think the first Bush was a better president than the second one. I'll bet if they asked, they could find that at least five in ten think cheese would be a better president than the second Bush.

For outside insight, ABC offers a sparkling Rashomon of weigh-ins. Mary Matalin: "If anybody in Washington or Austin or anywhere across the inter-planetary system tells you that they know the frequency or the substance of the conversation between the father and the son, they are making it up." Maureen Dowd: "Well from the point of view of the Bush 41 team it's pretty much like the scene in Borat, where he tries to get the Kazakh wedding sack over Pamela Anderson's head and run away with her." Tony Snow: "No, this is a...this is not bringing in people willy-nilly from his presidency administration to save him. Wrong."

That the team assembled by George W. Bush is failing miserably is beyond dispute. The emergence of this old boys' club may tame the post-election anger of traditional conservatives, but I don't really think turning Iraq over to these guys is such a good idea. These are the guys who helped keep Saddam Hussein rolling in weapons of mass destruction when he was using them on Iran, which incidentally is about to go nuclear. These are also the guys who abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban -- and I think there may be a link between the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks!

And by the way -- while our military leaders worry that we don't have enough troops for Iraq, let alone possible conflicts with Iran and North Korea, it's becoming a serious problem that we need more troops in Afghanistan, too -- because we abandoned it to the Taliban again when we invaded Iraq. U.S. and Afghan officials were quick to point out that they don't think more troops would be sent to Afghanistan, but just so you know, folks, we sure could use 'em over here. "I think it will be best at this point to wait and see what NATO is able to provide," said Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry. "There's more meetings that are taking place on the military staff. And this is very high on their agenda."

Eikenberry also mentioned that capturing Osama bin Laden "remains as much of a priority as it has since the United States of America was struck on 9/11." Wow, it's nice to know that's been a priority for so many years! And here's to many more, guys.