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March 30, 2007

cue rockwell jokes

Turns out it actually is all in your head.  According to this bit of research here, those of us you who feel like you're being followed are actually suffering from a small complaint of the brain.

It should be noted that this conclusion comes from doctors' study of a single subject, but it is put forth hopefully:

"Our findings may be a step towards understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control."

I don't think we should put our paranoia on the shelf just yet.

And, notwithstanding these neurological advances, I very much hope that déjà vu is someday discovered to be the primary symptom of getting hit smack in the forehead with an errant piece of the past.

[Via Dr Lazy.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:20 AM

joseph rich deserves chicken wings

You will see this linked a lot today.  It's an LA Times op-ed by Joseph D. Rich, a 35 year veteran of the Justice Department.

The aspect that you will most see noted is Rich's charges that the politicization of the DoJ by the current administration is not just a coincidence, but rather a concerted effort by Bush appointees to influence elections.  As that would be kinda against the law, it's a big story, and it's rightfully being emphasized.

But, I'd like to direct your attention to the less sexy rest of the op-ed, which deals pretty explicitly with how the Bush Administration has subverted the DoJ's Civil Rights Division -- you know, the division that deals with voting rights and the such:

[Bush appointee Bradley] Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House.  Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the [Civil Rights] division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls.  These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters.  The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

I'm one of those dumb old liberals who places civil rights pretty much above all others, so I'm just repeating it for the purpose of amplifying the echo chamber.

Yes, I'm preaching to the choir, but that's why people go to church.  [Which bon mot I'm paraphrasing from this dude.]

Posted by mrbrent at 9:30 AM

March 29, 2007

a day when a young man's mind turns to danny casolaro

The greatest thing about the scandal surrounding the purging of US Attorneys is that it is a load-bearing wall.  And now the whole building is evincing a precarious tilt.  This is maybe the aspect that frustrates those that still can't understand why everybody's so up in arms, because, if the firing of the US Attorneys is so insignificant, how come newer, bigger scandals keep springing out of it?  Not only can the horse not be put back in the barn, but now it's eating all your chickens!  Dude!

This is going back a bit, but the unfolding events of the day remind me of the work of the late Danny Casolaro, a reporter who, before his mysterious death in 1991, attempted to unearth a Unified Conspiracy Field Theory, ranging from the JFK Assassination to the Iran-Contra scandal.  This of course drew him deep, deep into the weeds of questionable and spooky sources, and you can debate the conspiracy angles all you want, but the reason why I'm thinking of Casolaro today is that his (whackadoo?) research was instigated by his initial reporting on a rinky-dink software scandal involving the Justice Department known as the Inslaw affair.  And from this relatively mundane white collar crime sprang connections to some far-reaching and seriously heavy shit.

This is not to say that the partisan skullduggery of the Attorney General will somehow lead to the identity of the other shooters in Dallas in 1963, but it is interesting how the precipitating incident of someone noticing that San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam was getting pushed out before she had completed investigations and prosecutions in the Rep. Duke Cunningham matter has ballooned into questions of perjury, violations of the Hatch Act and ongoing and systemic obstruction of justice (which hasn't got any play yet, but watch).

It could be that any one of these stories could have been the story to break first and shed light on all the others, that any of the roots of this tree could have been the first to pop up and get run over by the lawnmower.  Idle speculation.  In any event, TPM, in breaking this story, is starting to look a whole lot more like Woodward and Bernstein than it is "Matt Drudge".

Posted by mrbrent at 9:13 AM

March 28, 2007

even dan bartlett's syntax is misleading

It's difficult to imagine that I would take exception to a verb, but here I go.  Hopefully we don't need to recap why the topic of the accessibility of White House staff testimony is current, so let's skip right to the quote from a Chicago Tribune article concerning you-know-what:
Dan Bartlett, counselor to Bush, has said it was "highly unlikely" that the president would waive executive privilege to allow his top aides to testify publicly.

Yes, emphasis is mine.  So, believe it or not, that's some fucked up shit right there, at least in the parsing of it.

The president intends to "waive" executive privilege?  Wouldn't the more apt way to put it be that the president intends to "invoke" executive privilege?  This may seem like an insignificant nit I'm picking, but think of it this way -- is a president's executive privilege a precondition, or is it a special mechanism that the president can elect to utilize?  Because if the president can shield his minions from testimony by "waiving" executive privilege, then executive privilege is a condition that always exists, a state of natural grace that the president wears like a halo -- it is a rule and not an exception.

I believe that this would be a mischaracterization.  The argument that the internal deliberations of an administration are somehow perpetually off-limits is crazy-headed nonsense.  This is why they call it "executive privilege" and not an "executive right". If you recall this article from John Dean explaining the history of executive privilege, you will stumble across this text:

Moreover, in explaining its holding [in U.S. vs. Nixon, the Court reasoned as follows: "[W]hen the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises.  Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection…."

U.S. vs. Nixon is the Supreme Court ruling that pretty much set the ground rules for executive privilege, back in the 70s.  So, yes: it's a privilege, not a right.  And we will ignore the results of Cheney v. U.S. District Court (the case about the Vice President's secret meetings with polluters) on the grounds that the Court never addressed the legitimacy of the matter.

Again, I know that this is a longish rant based on silly word-choice, but I do believe that it is these small skirmishes that matter, national discourse-wise.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:20 PM

please keep your wal-mart to yourself

Sorry, rest of America.  Below please find further proof supporting the argument that the metropolitan New York area is better than you are:
Wal-Mart Hurt, Confused by New York's Rejection

Basically, in an interview with the New York Times, Wal-Mart CEO reveals that Wal-Mart didn't want to open a store in stupid old New York anyway.  He blames the unions (of course) and the fact that we New Yorkers are cooler than he is:

Speaking about what he sees as snobbish elites in New York and across the country, [CEO H. Lee}] Scott added, “You have people who are just better than us and don’t want a Wal-Mart in their community.”

Was that sarcasm?  Because, yes, New Yorkers are better than Wal-Mart executives, and, yes, we don't want a Wal-Mart in our community.  Why not?  I guess we just don't want every day low prices worker- and community-exploiting, culture-destroying, avaricious Big Box cocksuckers employing our grandparents.

Face it: if your city can make Wal-Mart sulk like a three year-old, then your city must be doing something right.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

we will be thinking baseball shortly

This would be just what the doctor ordered.  Doctor Baseball, that is.

Please have a very nice story about very bad jokes in the clubhouse.  And remember:

"I guess it's funnier when he tells the joke without wearing any clothes," Maddux said.

Dugout words to live by.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:37 AM

March 27, 2007

it's only natural to repeat the phrase "klieg lights"

Let me try to clear up the confusion.  You may think that the phrase "kleig lights" are being repeated by certain parties because they're trying to make some kind of point.  For example, in using "klieg lights" as an idiomatic shorthand representing "congressional hearing", the speaker is trying to imply that there is something, maybe, unnecessarily showy, or in some way reminiscent of television, where kleig lights are generally used, in such hearing.  A point like that.  And you might think that the phrase is being deployed so woodenly, and by so many speakers, because of some memo of talking points passed around, or similar mechanism.

Sadly, you would be mistaken in both points.

In fact, if you read up on some of America's finest linguistic theory, it's no more unnatural to repeat "klieg lights" than it is to repeat "and" or "the".  Oddly enough, "klieg lights" is easily the most naturally recurring phrase with two "l"s in the English language.  Look it up.

Also, according to some other excellent American linguists, "klieg lights" is semantically valueless -- totally empty calories.  It is therefore impossible for the phrase to mean anything at all, let alone to make some sort of point.  Anything you hear to the contrary is probably pure politics, and should therefore be ignored and/or deported.

Hopefully, this klieg lights clears things up for you.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:45 AM

March 26, 2007

more about why panties are in a bunch over purgegate

Further to yesterday's post concerning the Justice Department and Communists.  Yes, Josh Marshall is smarter than I am.
We all understand that politics and the law aren't two hermetically sealed domains.  And we understand that partisanship may come into play at the margins.  But we expect it to be the exception to the rule and a rare one.  But here it appears to have become the rule rather than the exception, a systematic effort at the highest levels to hijack the Justice Department and use it to advance the interest of one party over the other by use of selective prosecution.

That's what I said, but without the cussing and the deployment of impenetrable idioms.  But hopefully, if enough people write/talk about it, "What crime was committed?" will cease to be a valid point of discussion.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:48 AM

March 25, 2007

your puny laws are meaningless

Of course, any consideration of the purges of the US Attorney's is instigated by something I read on TPM.  I want to discuss an important aspect of PurgeGate -- namely, where is the crime in all this?  Assuming that there is some more perfect world where the Attorney General and his staff didn't get all confused when testifying before Congress (we'll call that the F-Troop Defense), what is the crime in firing a US Attorney for spurious reasons?

This is not an awkward or an uncommon question.  In fact, in a bid to become the most famous Representative ever from Utah, Rep. Chris Cannon allowed himself to be quoted as saying that there is "nothing wrong with firing a U.S. attorney for the reason of politics."

So either there is nothing wrong (not even just illegal, but inherently wrong) with purging US Attorney's for less than noble reasons, or Rep. Cannon is about as dumb as a bag of hair.

Sadly, as much as I like calling people with whom I disagree stupid, I think the safest answer is, "Actually, neither."

First of all, explaining why there is indeed something wrong with firing US Attorneys for political reasons does not involve the highest degree of difficulty -- basically, it's why that lady holding the scales of justice is wearing a blindfold.  There are certain civil processes in these United States that we prefer to keep impartial, law enforcement coming in second right behind voting.  To have law enforcement even indirectly swayed by political considerations would be to pervert the entire institution (yes, it happens all the time, but still).

In another sense, make a list, my strawman friend, of all the nations, past and present, where the all of the arms of government, including law enforcement, are peopled by functionaries of "the Party", and wonder if you would want to have a pin of their flags on your lapel.

And secondly, I wouldn't say that Rep. Cannon, and those Powerlines and LGFs falling in line behind him, are as much dumb as they are without principle.  There are these lofty goals of administering a government, the subject of all those books by Jefferson and Hamilton that we pretend we've read, and it is only when filtered through these goals (the Public Good, let's just say) that undue political influence becomes heinous.  If, however, you do not believe in any such creature as the public good, and in fact are only concerned with the aggregation and perpetuation of political power, then undue political influence transforms into not only a justifiable act, but also the logical thing to do.  So we who subscribe to a Public Good accuse folk like Rep. Cannon of gaming the system, but Rep. Cannon wouldn't recognize the system we refer to if it knocked on his door and invited itself in for tea.  He's on another system entirely, the "gaming" of which is written into the rules.

So, Rep. Cannon is not stupid.  He's just an asshole.

And, for the record, those that believe that getting upset over the political corruption of inviolate processes is a big whiny head-scratcher, they should go back to their Politburo and report that their moral indifference ain't cowing none of us.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:26 PM