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March 23, 2007

john dean speaking from experience

I've been wondering for the past few days how I would explain this PurgeGate/"constitutional crisis" to a fifteen year-old.  (Assuming I could find a fifteen year-old who could give a hoop-de-doo.)  It's easy, after immersing yourself in inside-the-beltway gossip and trivia, to lose sight of the balanced breakfast for the Apple Jacks, and I want to be able to explain why all this matters, why I presume to assign a "right" and a "wrong" and why I waste RAM on this when I could be knitting my dog a sweater.

Unfortunately, I'm not done yet.  I'd submit that the independence of law enforcement is at stake, but, in devising the argument, I keep running into a little wall, inasmuch as it's not yet clear where or when the third branch of our tripartite system, the judiciary, will decide if they have a dog in this fight.  The executive branch has made a pretty strong play (which I disagree with strongly on principle) that law enforcement shall serve at the pleasure of the president, but, conceptually, it's hard to divorce law enforcement from the judiciary, as the judiciary has a pretty direct involvement of pushing the ball that last ten yards, as far as law-breaking goes, by determining guilt, sentencing, etc.

So, I'm positive that the most egregious aspect of this whole big thing, as it has been with other recent big things, is the White House power-grab.  But I'm still working out the kinks as far as explaining exactly why the power grab is a bad thing.

For a take a little more clear, concise and considered, I offer the latest column by John Dean.  Yes, that John Dean.  No, really, that John Dean, who knows from constitutional crises.  His column also weighs in on presidential overreach:

In truth, much more is at stake here for both the Congress and the White House than this bare description of the conflict would indicate.  These issues strike at the heart of what post-Watergate conservative Republicans seek to create: an all-powerful presidency.

Though, honestly, the column goes much broader than that -- it is a detailed and comprehensive examination of the shaky philosophical underpinnings of the "unitary executive" and the recent history of executive privilege.  Yes, very wonky.  It is written by a lawyer.  But juicy indeed.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:01 AM

March 22, 2007

more ufos!

Score another for France.  The wingers may continue their dislike of the surrender-monkeys, but they again remind us of why Bill Murray and John Malkovitch expatriated there:
France opens secret UFO files

Looks like we can take our Blue Books and shove 'em.  Check this:

[Jacques] Patenet's [the aeronautical engineer who heads the office for the study of "non-identified aerospatial phenomena"] answer to questions about evidence of life beyond Earth was sure to inflame the suspicions of those convinced the government is holding back: "We do not have the least proof that extra-terrestrials are behind the unexplained phenomena."

But then he added: "Nor do we have the least proof that they aren't."

A bit weird to see a smattering of intellectual complexity from a government official, non?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:13 PM

angelina jolie is probably a nice lady anyway

As a matter of principal, we leave it to others to comment upon the sort of events chronicled in your US Weekly and People Magazine ventures.  You all have watercoolers, and our knowledge of the reality TV shows is next to nothing.  We also leave the discussion of airplane food and Punjabis owning 7-11s to those better equipped.  But seriously, what is up with that?

That was just a longish disclaimer to enable me to say this: Angelina Jolie's serial globe-trotting adoptions are creeping me the fuck out.  It's like she's got a map of the world taped to her fridge, and every time she gets a new kid, she puts a sticker on the kid's country of origin.  I propose that Hummels are much cheaper to collect, plus also their upkeep is simpler.

Yes, I know, long way; store closed.  It's just icky, and it's splashed all over NY daily newspapers, so I have to see it all the time.  Don't forget to tip your servers!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:40 AM

March 21, 2007

wonkette wins the al gore caption contest

I'm not ordinarily a sucker for funny pictures.  It's tough for me to think visually, what with my brain the way it is.  But the above-the-fold centerpiece on the front page of this morning's NYTimes was a glistening heap of funny, with Al Gore looking stricken by a sudden squinting paralysis on a Washington street.  It was so out-loud, I was wishing that the NYTimes had a better hyperlink policy so I could share.

Except that Wonkette found the pic similarly funny, and devised a headline worthy of the pic.  I won't spoil it -- try it yourself.  You just might like it.

And, sure, I'm a bona fide fan of the Goracle, but funny knows no side of the aisle -- sorry, Half Hour News Hour (if that is in fact your name).  If you let yourself get photographed looking like a 90 year-old man, then I'm all har-de-har-har, no matter how much I want you to run for president.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:41 PM

nola still all messed up

Here's some news for those of you with a long enough memory to remember a year and a half ago.  A report from Louisiana fingers the culprit behind the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina -- ignorant, non-swimming poor people!

Oop, got that one wrong.  Actually, a common mistake.  Actually, the news here on planet earth is that the Army Corps of Engineers went and did it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, isn't the Corps one of the few governmental organizations of which the Administration can't shit-can the capable leadership and replace them with talentless sinecures and idiot donor-nephews?  I hate to pile on the Armed Forces (I know, what kind of pinko hippie do I think I am?), but, dude, a base competency level is generally achievable.  Especially when we're talking about safeguarding one of America's larger urban populations.

I'm just trying to keep New Orleans in the conversation.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:13 PM

have we run out of 'gates' yet?

I know PurgeGate's not playing as a big story all over.  There are other stories, just as important.  Tainted pet foods.  Indicted cops.  But it's a big story to me, dammit -- they're throwing a constitutional crisis, and we're all invited!

So as this is only of nominal interest to the average Americans, please skip the following minutiae concerning this, the best White House Kerfluffle ever.

First, the tireless minions commenters of TPM, upon reviewing the 3,000 documents turned over by the DoJ Monday night, discovered an eighteen day gap -- eighteen days in November to December (or, right before the "please resign now" phone calls were made in early December) for which documents from the DoJ are conspicuously absent.  Now, these missing days could be represented in further document dumps.  On the other hand, the Administration could have decided that, you want Watergate?  We'll give you fucking Watergate.  (Which, oddly enough, would also track with a firing of an Attorney General, yes?)

And as far as the document dump goes, you may have noticed that the real meaty internal communications were conducted via email.  In connection therewith, give a look-over to this super-interesting angle on the implications of the purges and the investigation thereof -- the White House is leery of putting things on paper.  In fact, if you read the quotes from various sources in the piece (43! 41! Rice! Rumsfeld!), you see that key players have been avoiding email explicitly to avoid being investigated/prosecuted.  Is it unfair to wonder who wipes fingerprints off a gun other than a shooter?

Finally, I did sit through most of the President's forceful refusal to be ruled by laws and stuff -- well, I sat through it up until the point that he gave the best quote ever:

. I told you in Mexico I've got confidence in him -- I still do.

It is the tag-line of the best road movie starring George Bush never made.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:14 AM

March 20, 2007

president sputter mcragey

I wish I had a little siren graphic, and some extra exclamation points.  I haven't seen the President's press conference of two hours ago yet, but, from initial reports, I'm going to want to.  No better way to tamp down a scandal to double-dog dare the investigators to subpoena.  What better way to prove your innocence?

In the interest of cheering our exasperated president up, this is a church sign I saw last weekend in the hills of northeastern PA:  "Spring: God's Greeting Card!"  If the president were to see this sign, his performance during these "You'll never take me alive!" pressers would be much less clenched and jerky.  Because the excellent thing about "Spring: God's Greeting Card!" is that it takes three independent elements and demeans them equally with treacle!  Which is the surefire way to make Americans, and even presidents, loosen the hell up.

I was too young to have a firm memory of Nixon during Watergate (I do remember Congressional hearings pre-empting some daytime TV at the sitter's), but I will let imagination be my guide and envision Nixon's demeanor something like our current president's cranked-out petulance.

Posted by mrbrent at 6:47 PM

not really about tiger woods

Not to broken record this or anything.  But please examine the following teaser for a longer story that was run on a major general interest web portal (who shall remain nameless so they don't think I'm picking on them):
Tiger Woods ranks No. 1 as the most marketable athlete in North America, but who's he ahead of?

Well, golly, I'm no doctor science or anything, but if Tiger ranks No. 1, then who is he ahead of?  Everyone.  Stop the presses!

The better question: is our J-school students learning?

Posted by mrbrent at 4:23 PM

take the terrorists bowling

Maybe you haven't heard, but your children are no longer safe.  The terrorists are going to drive their school buses  I guess it was just a question of when the terrorists would figure out that we, unlike the terrorists, love our children.

This panicked alarm is brought to you by Cory Doctorow, who suggests a couple more things to worry about.  It is in the same spirit that I add a few more:

*  Terrorists may decide that your wife is one hot tomato, and then clean themselves up and start sending your wife flowers and poems, the like of which you have not sent your wife in years, because, well, that's marriage.  You will be helpless as the terrorists cuckold you! *  Terrorists may infiltrate the cast of Saturday Night Live, using their funny accents and comical appearances to make SNL actually watchable for the first time in twenty years.

*  Terrorists may become sick and tired of being second class citizens here in these United States, and start a nationwide campaign of peaceful protests (well, except for the occasional bomb) for change.

*  Terrorists may wake up one morning, realize that they are 37 years old and what have they really done?  The day job's a stupid placeholder, though the terrorist depends on the money.  All the promise, all the dreams, where did it go?  What does the terrorist have to show for it now?

*  Terrorists might hide in a dark alley and then, when you walk past, beat you up.

It probably goes without saying that you should probably start wondering if you, too, are a terrorist.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:27 AM

March 19, 2007

they say "irony" doesn't work on the internets

This may come as some surprise.  A revelation is buried in a story the AP has run on a terror trial in Great Britain.  (United Kingdom?)  Let's just say "London", as that is the city referenced in the lede paragraph below:
LONDON - A man accused of conspiring to bomb London's public transport system told a court Monday that he deliberately made fake devices that were not meant to explode but would spread fear and panic in protest against the invasion of Iraq.

Wait, I'd have thought that one makes fake devices to make fake explosions.  I guess these fake terrorists are smarter than they look.

Color me grateful to the AP for clearing up this whole "fear/panic bomb" confusion.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:04 PM


We already knew that the robber barons of big pharm and the insurance industry treat the consumer as plankton to be sucked into their open maws -- this is America, after all.  That's how we were raised.  But nowadays you can add just about any commercial entity not owner-operated to this list, and Consumerist is there to document the atrocities.

Yes, I'm being alarmist.  It's where the flavor is.  But spend a couple minutes surfing the site, which is really just an aggregation of consumer-interest news (a "Consumer Reportz", say) plus stories generated by anecdotes, largely concerning how Enormous Retail/Services Corporation [X] expressly tries to screw someone over, and you'll start to learn to let your paranoia be your umbrella, especially on your way to the mall.

Why, in today's posts alone, check this murderer's row of culprits:  Best Buy!  Verizon!  And it's only Monday.

If you don't find it useful, you will at least find it entertaining, in the regard of whatever "Life In These United States!" would translate into for 2007.

(Yes, I'm kidding about the "Life In These United States", but, if you know what I'm talking about, then you share my shame.)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:00 PM

and what other american wars lasted at least four years

A new year of occupation of Iraq!  So, while everyone in the White House enjoys their party with soda pop and cake, a new analogy:

Say your uncle calls you up and says, "Hey, I got an extra ticket to go see Matthew Sweet, you wanna come?"  Why yes, you would, you say, hoping the show would be more "Girlfriend" than it would be "In Reverse".  On the appointed day, your uncle picks you up and you head to the concert hall, picking up some Long John Silvers along the way, for dinner.  At the show, you are seated behind three tall men, all wearing stovepipe hats.  When the show starts, you discover that Matthew Sweet couldn't make it, and would be replaced by C + C Music Factory, which makes you groan.  Upon groaning, the three stovepipe hatted men turn and beat you into unconsciousness with steel folding chairs.  Unknown to you, as you lay unconscious, and right before he accompanies you in the back of the ambulance, your uncle picks your pocket.  When you come to, you say to your uncle, "Why, that was the worst fucking experience I've ever had," to which your uncle replies, "Dude!  That Long John Silvers was delicious!"

I make this spurious analogy knowing that there are three thousand American families, and untold Iraqi families, who lost loved ones to this dumbest fucking occupation ever.  No offense is implied w/r/t their loss, and I would imagine that they have a whole lot more to be het up about than I do.

And this analogy is especially aimed at those that espouse the meme, "The Saddam Hussein government was a dangerous regime in a dangerous region, and needed to be overthrown".  That may well have been the case, but it's not the argument offered to gain the limited war powers.  So that would make the argument horseshoes to our peanuts, or some such, and now, four years later, hopefully the perpetrators of this dishonest nest of fuck-up have not stopped going to fuck themselves, repeatedly.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:11 AM