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January 6, 2006

abramoff, and the banishment of the -gate

This morning's walk to the job was spent as I usually spend it -- thinking about Jack Abramoff.  Part of the fascination with Abramoff is obvious, as it's a big ole scandal and the trappings of power (at least those trappings above the water line) are a quiver with prospects of the fall.  And the fall will not be so much a partisan achievement as it will be a very rare and necessary rebuke to those who think that ascendancy absolves all crimes, and I hope that the formerly ascendant will have plenty of time to think about it in the hoosegow, or in the back of an ambulance, or whatever.

But there is another side to appeal of this downfall of one of the GOP's primary bagmen, and it goes a little something like this.  I remember growing up (in a period we'll call the 80s) how the shadow cast by college loomed over the high school years.  At that point, everything I knew about college was shaped by a combination of early Doonesbury strips and a general historic knowledge of student activism in the late 60s/early 70s.  Which was an exciting prospect.  Events weren't as dire as today, but we toiled under the reclining years of the Reagan Administration (which were filled with recession and scandal, no matter what airport you name after him), and I was looking forward to four years of graduate education and political up-in-armedness.

Which, as you imagine, was not the case.  I think we might've "occupied" the Dean's office over the dismissal of a beloved professor, though I remember it more as sitting around cross-legged for a day on crappy institutional carpet trying to sear our self-importance into our little brains.  Which was the precise extent of my collegiate political activism.  A good lesson about idealism, the wheels of the world, etc.

And that's why the Abramoff nest of scandals is such a watershed.  Iran-Contra and the Savings and Loan scandal ended up (mostly due to party discipline) to be flashes in the pan, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton was the barest partisan power-grab hiding under the flimsiest mask of scandal.  My generation never got their Watergate, the little correction that history forces on current events every thirty or forty years.  Now we have our Watergate.

And Karl Rove ain't even been indicted yet.

Anyway, I was wondering this morning about the mad rush to return Abramoff donations -- namely, why rush to return the dirty money after he's copped a plea?  It was no secret that Abramoff was being investigated, and it was widely whispered that he would be flipped by the Feds.  Why not return the money the second that he faces scrutiny from the Feds?  Why wait until the appearance of impropriety blossoms into full-blown and admitted impropriety?  To wait for an indictment (or plea bargain) gives the impression of very facile political expediency -- once the returnee's link to corruption can be discerned from the moon with the naked eye, well, then it's time to act contrite and apologetic.

Of course, not every GOP Congressman is falling over themselves to go back in time and return Abramoff's contributions.  Meet Rep. John T. Doolittle (CA-R) [via TPM's The Daily Muck], who will not return the cash.  His reasoning?  Abramoff's plea bargain did not implicate him, so why bother?  According to Doolittle, dirty money is only dirty once a grand jury says so.

I admire his resolve, and hope he keeps it up, for the future of the Republican Party.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:53 PM

love? monkey?

Woke up this morning to TV crews.  A television program named "Love Monkey" (which title is self-shark-jumping, yes?) is shooting scenes on my block in scenic Brooklyn, NY.  I used to get all excited by the film shoots, but now I think that they are a cheap ploy to increase the ratings of the show shooting one block at a time.  Who wouldn't tune in to see if one's bedroom window is visible on national prime-time television?

Oh, that's right, not me.

I'd also like to congratulate the crew of "Love Monkey" for successfully hiding the craft services table from me.

Foiled again.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:30 AM

January 5, 2006

sinecures for the talentless

Here's a story the New York Times left out this morning.  Stung by post-Katrina accusations of cronyism and by recent allegations of breaching the Constitutional system of checks and balances, the Bush Administration has decided to fly in the face of both, to simplify for viewers at home.

Fill the screen with recess appointments for friends and family!

Hopefully, these new kids can rise to the level of competence of Dave Laurinski, Bush's choice for the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and former executive of Energy West Mining.

And as long as we're handing out sinecures, I think I'd be a great fit for the Department of Transportation, because I do a lot of interstate driving.  Thank you.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

January 4, 2006

abramoff, and the incorruptible

It is difficult today to escape the long arm of the Abramoff.  Apparently he is v. hot right now, and I won't insult you with a link.

But perhaps you missed this little bit.  In early December of 2005, columnist and Cato Institute fellow Doug Bandow resigned after it was revealed that he was partaking in the Jack Abramoff money-train in exchange for writing and publishing columns concerning topics of Abramoff interest.

Today, Bandow published a short piece in the Los Angeles Times discussing how much fun it is to be on the periphery of the Jack Abramoff shitstorm.  The theme of his piece is how the ethics of journalism only matter if you get caught, and the closing thoughts are how we will indeed have Doug Bandow to kick around anymore.

Buried in a tangle of what's-the-big-deals and what-about-the-other-guys is the money quote:

But it's silly to suggest that $1,000 or so would buy my opinion.

Hey, Doug, you found your petard!

Firstly, no, it's not silly to suggest that $1,000 would buy your opinion, Doug.  That's why you quit the Cato Institute and were removed by your syndicator -- for appearing to accept $1,000 to buy your opinion.  It's only "silly" up there in your head, where you are much more attractive and devastatingly smart.

Secondly, I don't think anyone is accusing you of having your opinion bought.  More like having your soapbox bought, your voice in the chorus of columnists who determine the temperature of the public discourse.  And you clearly did sell your soapbox, which you did not address in your non-apology apology.  "You honor, I stand accused of robbing a bank -- let me say clearly that I never touched that woman."  You teeter on the edge of protesting too much, with regard to your opinion.  If you are so pure as the driven snow, then why'd you take the money, you two-bit graft monkey?

And finally, if it's silly to suggest that you'd sell your opinion for a grand or so, tell us: how much should it cost?  Five grand?  Fifty?  Hell, Armstrong Williams got $241,000.  That's gotta hurt, right?

I'm sure there's a job waiting for you at Talon News, you obfuscating piece of shit.

[Via Romanesko.]

Posted by mrbrent at 4:17 PM

can you repeat that?

The Yahoo! Headline Box of Boxiness brings a story that makes all the sense in the world:
• Who star warns iPod users of hearing threat

The sense it makes, of course, is contingent on your knowledge of Pete Townsend's long-documented (and ironical) hearing problems.

If you are not familiar with this trivia, you might find yourself wondering which Who star is making this warning, inviting:

• Who star warns iPod users of hearing threat... from beyond the grave

Yes, the Ox's spectral ears, they're killing him.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:53 AM

January 1, 2006

happy new year

I am in Memphis.  Memphis, Tennessee.  I forget why we came, it is so nice.

However, it is the First of January, and therefore the first day of the year.  And therefore, resolutions:

First, liquor before beer, never fear.  Beer before liquor, never sicker.  Beer before wine, run for Attorney General of the State of New York.

Second, no science made of babies!  Just kidding.  More science made of babies, actually.

Third, stress that the NSA scandal is not about the President's untrammeled right to defend our country, but rather about accountability.  No, Mr President, your word is not good enough, so sez the Constitution.

Fifth, I will finally defeat the New England Patriots, hopefully by cheating.

Sixth, time to maximize my earning potential, which, according to my recent history readings, means I need to find a way to be born to a wealthy family.  Or maybe that "three jobs" strategy that is so "uniquely American".

Seventh, more movies from you, George Clooney, stat!  Don't make me wipe that cleft off your chin.

Eighth, ahhhhhh, freak out!

Finally, remember that we are the reservoir of the indomitability of the human spirit, and there is yet much ass to kick.

Happy New Year, you.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:33 PM