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April 27, 2007

puny hatch act

Of the infinite vastness of the array of breaking scandals, I have a soft spot for this one.  This is the scandal sprung from the revelation that Rove underlings have briefed fifteen federal agencies on how to affect the election prospects of GOP candidates.  This is a broad daylight violation of the Hatch Act, a prohibition of government employees engaging in political activities while on the company dime.

One reason why I'm fond of this one is because it can come off as inane -- as in, "The White House makes sure that NASA and the Department of the Treasury are on board to kick some Defeatocrat ass!"  Surely there is some Department of Newspaper Deliverers that Rove overlooked.

But the big reason is that it's a scandal that directly addresses why it is that I do not trust this Administration to do much of anything -- they have abdicated the day-to-day responsibilities of governance in favor of systemic partisan aggregation and perpetuation of political power.  Agencies that once provided services are now just a functionless haven of sinecures for the connected, at best (say, FEMA), and subverted into interfering with the electoral process, at worst (hello Justice Department).

So, yes, Rovian storm-troopers lecturing the General Services Administration on how to target weak incumbent Dems is a crime, an overt crime, and a crime that speaks to the moral vacuum that inhabits the center of the Bush Administration.

Even more fantastic is the Administration's defense, as set forth by Acting Press Secretary Dana Perino:

There is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the President's agenda.  None.

In other words, "Of course we violated the Hatch Act, but we dare you to find a judge that you can prove it too.  Until then, why don't you and that insipid Hatch Act go fuck each other, or yourselves, or whatever?"

There is no jurisdiction competent enough for the Bush Administration, as there is no jurisdiction that they will recognize unless they already control it.

Which does not change the fact that they are guilty as fuck.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:01 AM

April 26, 2007

if only the rigged ohio vote could be explained this easily

You may have noticed this week that the scandals, whether they be Abramoff derived or Gonzalez impeded, have metastasized.  Josh Marshall has a pretty interesting theory about it.  But whatever the source, you won't be swinging any dead cats these days if you are squeamish about GOPs under investigation.  For example, this one is a pretty good story (especially with the "et tu, Iglesias" twist) about a new investigation, and this one is also another Representative under the gun (like this guy and this other guy).  But you've either read about these already, or could easily read about them, if you wade through a couple pages of the progressive newssites out there.

So I specifically want to bring this exciting new controversy to your attention, because I've not read too much about it, and because it is so hopelessly complex and unsexy that it would take actual dead bodies for this to make the front page of USA Today.  Basically, it's a wonky paper trail that creates the impression of Republican fixing the vote in Ohio during the 2004 elections.

The plain English version is this -- the office of the Secretary of State of Ohio not only oversees elections, but also, naturally, election cote-counting and reporting.  A Slashdot contributor has noticed that the Secretary of State's website switched hosting servers on November 4, 2004.  Before that date, the website pointed to a server in Ohio, and after, the website pointed to out-of-state servers run by a company called Smartech Corp., which company hosts a range of Republican National Committee IP addresses, including the gwb.com address that the White House used to circumvent the Presidential Records Act (and avoid subpoena).

The fact that the server switch occurred two days after Election Day may seem like evidence of no wrong-doing, but remember this -- there was a two month period between Election Day and the day that then-Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certified the results ( December 6, 2004).  During that time, votes were counted and recounted, and lawsuits over recounts were filed back and forth.

Obviously, there are no guns smoking.  But two questions are raised:

One, what are the regulations of Ohio concerning third party administration of State business?  Is there oversight on a statewide level, and is there an outright prohibition (similar to the Hatch Act) against mixing partisan political interests with legitimate state functions?

And two, where else does Smartech Corp. pop up in events of current interest?  Who owns them?  Who does business with them?  Considering they've been placed at the center of the White House email scandal, and at the periphery of the Ohio 2004 vote, it would be pretty good odds that Smartech may have a longer c.v. than that.

This is the IT end of the scandals zitting up all over Washington.  Hopefully someone smart and techsavvy will pick this up and run with it.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:26 PM

an alternate bee theory

This is not so much bee news as it is a bee update.  The sharp eyes of CCP caught a story of a new region to be affected by what some are calling colony collapse disorder (see below).  And that new region -- island, even! -- is Taiwan.  This is the first I've heard of colonies disordering in Asia, but, then again, I spend 15 minutes every four or five days looking into it.  Chances are I'm wrong.  But hopefully the array of locations affected -- Eastern Asia, North America, Western Europe -- provides some information that the smart guys can decant.

No breakthroughs in trying to source the cause of this in Taiwan, though what is lacked in achievement is made up for by novelty, as entomologist Yang Ping-shih offers "that two kinds of pesticide can make bees turn 'stupid' and lose their sense of direction."  Which answers the question, "Why is our bees not learning?"

Yes, it is the pesticides that is why they stupid.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

April 25, 2007

a post filled with unreliable narrators

Plucked from today's headlines, I'm calling a Stop The Press!  According to the itty-bitty Box of Headlines on the Yahoo! page:
• Taliban says bin Laden planned February Cheney attack

OMG!  The one thing that everyone knows about the Taliban is that they never, ever lie!  And obviously, they would have nothing to gain by exaggerating the extent of their power, or to publicize the return of bin Laden, especially in the Arab world.  So we have to take them at their word, which means this story deserves a flashing siren, like how!

By this metric, I fully expect that every time Fred Phelps says that some dead hero or dead victim is "in hell" because "God hates fags", the story should be given front page play, because no one ever lies.

Plus also, I was the shooter on the Grassy Knoll.  Send book contract stat!

(If you click through, you will see that the story, and all the exclamation points it may cause, is another fine piece of reportage brought to you by the Associated Press.  If you're interested.)

Posted by mrbrent at 4:26 PM

rudolph giuliani can kiss my god-damn ass

I've never had sex with Rudy Giuliani.  So it might be unfair for me to project what the Mayor-of-the-Universe might be like in the sack.  (I am not New York magazine and do not ordinarily traffic in such things.)  But, based on these carelessly spoken words, I'd surmise that he ain't no all-night man -- no, even a quarter hour would be a stretch.

Because, if a GOP candidate has to resort to the "Only Republicans can prevent 9-11s" meme a year and a half before the general election, I'd say that he has a premature something-something problem.  Like, I hope the old man can manage to get it out of his pants.  It's April of 2006, and he's already all:

“But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have?” Giuliani said. “If we are on defense [with a Democratic president], we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”

After which he apologizes, baby -- maybe he's a little bit too excited, and he's sure he'll be ready to go again in an hour or two...

It's perhaps no surprise that the man who decided to reveal, three years after the fact, that while dodging buildings on September the 11th he was talking up how happy he was that a failed Texas oil scion with an inferiority complex was president.  This was right after, of course, he remarked how ironic it was that some part of the buildings he was dodging consisted of his Office of Emergency Management, which he decided to, against better judgment, put in the same building that terrorists had tried to knock over eight years previous.  Ain't that a kick in the head!

Anyhow, I hope you, the rest of America who are apparently pining for a "mayor" for some reason (was it because the shocking images of 9-11 hurt your widdle feelings, rest of America?) are receptive to the information that New Yorkers have been privy to for a decade and a half: Rudy is a no-class asshole who cares only for the riches he might receive once he's exploited your vote.

(Please note that when I write, "Was it because the shocking images of 9-11 hurt your widdle feelings, rest of America?" what I am actually trying to say is, "Fuck you, voyeuristic cowards.")

[Petty invective aside, read past the "IslamoDemocrats want to rape your children" portion of the link to get to revealing words on Giuliani's idea of foreign policy -- i.e., the umpteenth iteration of "They hate us for our freedom!"  (Raucous crowd assent.)]

Posted by mrbrent at 10:27 AM

introducing the dregs

I got took, and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.  The outrageous video that uses the word "vage" linked two posts below is in fact not the effort of a sincere, patriotic trollop, but rather is the work-product of a comedy troupe known as The Dregs.  And it's damn fine (though still harrowing), and not too shabby as a sociology experiment, either.  Thanks to Mrs. Titivil for the legwork.

Even more interesting is that there is more than one version of the video floating around.  I'm hoping that the one I linked is the tongue-in-cheek version, because, if not, I should probably just limit myself to Kids In The Hall DVDs.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:10 AM

April 24, 2007

betty trachtenberg: you have poor judgment

When the VA Tech shootings happened last week, I decided that it was a topic I was going to try to leave alone.  Aside from the shock/randomness of it, it's not really related to or correlated with an identifiable trend or newsworthy pattern, and the newspaper/Internets filled up pretty quick with columns filed that can be summed up in a short sentence -- "Dude, that's some fucked up shit."  Plus also there's a whole lotta friends and families who certainly didn't invite this terrible loss, so, yeah, I wanted to leave it alone.  (Leave alone here, at least -- there is a whole 'nuther level of discourse that it appropriate with one's friends.)

Unfortunately, this crazified response to the shootings actually do rise to the level of news, and therefore are fair game.  Yesterday, an adjunct college perfessor got job discontinued over his busy hands (as referenced two posts below).  Today, an even more hysterical and senseless response -- the Yale Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has decreed that no longer shall weapons appear in plays produced at Yale.  Instead, student actors shall implement obvious fakes, like wooden swords.  And this decision was made in light of the VA Tech shootings.  Because, as you know, the shooter was a playwright.  So we must deny theater geeks even the temptation to indiscriminately murder a whole lot of people, or at least make it more difficult, like with a wooden sword.  (More comment at Eat The Press).

Meanwhile, Washington politicos have largely stayed away from seeking political gain in the wake of the shootings.  Well, except for Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is staking a claim as the Most Useful Man in America as he convenes his Senate Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Controls today to discuss what Congress can do to protect our co-eds from random homicidal maniacs.

Obviously, it was lack of Congressional oversight that caused this to happen in the first place -- unlike the failures of the invasion of Iraq, Sen. Lieberman, which was an unexpected shock and caught everyone totally by surprise.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:40 PM

introducing sandy belle

I'm not into the vlogging, but have this anyway.  It was forwarded to me by a "friend" (i.e., he was a friend before he forwarded it -- we'll see).

The content is a music video of what you could call a country music song.  It's a debut, apparently, of a young lady by the name of Sandy Belle.  She's singing a little song about the troops in Iraq, and how much she misses them.  It shows her greenscreened in front of war footage and various patriotic footage.  And, um, it's NSFW, but only to the extent that she, well, graphically describes how much she misses the troops.  Like, talking about her panties, and personal parts and stuff.

Here, try a couple lyrics:

Shoot me like a Sunni/Shoot me like a Shi'ite

And the breathy final refrain:

Treat me like an Abu Ghraib

Much like your fortune cookie fortune, those sections are intended to have an unvoiced "between the sheets" somewhere in there.

You can find it here, at Youtube.  I don't if it's tongue-in-cheek, and, if so, which cheek, and it's apolitically-framed, vacillating wildly.  (At least it's mildly xenophobic!)

It kind of blows whatever firm conception of "meta" I had clean out of my head.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:54 AM

April 23, 2007

everyone please have a little chilling effect

You got your Don Imus in my VA Tech shootings!  An adjunct at some small Massachusetts college has been handed his walking papers over something he "said" to his students.

If you are the sort to believe what you read in the news, the act the dude was fired over was, in the course of discussing gun control in light of the massacre or some such, pointing his marker at students and going "bang":

During the demonstration, Winset [the adjunct] pretended to shoot some students.  Then one student pretended to shoot Winset to illustrate his point that the gunman might have been stopped had another student or faculty member been armed.

I am thankful to the administrators for protecting us from imaginary serial killers.  And to you who think that this job termination is egregious, ask yourself this: who'd be crying now if that marker was actually loaded?

My money says that the Imus affair has opened the door of wrongful termination a crack, so that management will be settling a lot of grudges via "bad speech" incidents.  So if you are the type to make a few not-friends in the workplace, you best watch your "poopy!"s and your "hang loose" gestures.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:55 PM

oh, just to type "rich little"!

Another year has passed in which my invitation to the White House Correspondent's Dinner was lost in the mail.  I moved recently, you see, so that should explain everything.  So, I'm not mad.  Just a little hurt.

After all, following up on last year's Stephen Colbert sneak-attack in which truth was spoken to the ire and dismay of the media-elite and the political elite (hey, let's just cal them the elite!) would be no easy task.  When it was announced that this year's guest would be TV's Rich Little, it was apparent that the Dinner organizers were more aiming to stultify guests than outrage them, but, unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men, etc.

From accounts I've read (no, won't be catching this one on C-SPAN), perhaps the only actually galling event of a night of tepid blandery came from our President, who declined to make with the funny out of respect to the victims of the VA State shootings.  I'm not certain what point he was trying to score with that, as I did not read of a large contingent of Blacksburg residents protesting outside the dinner, demanding that there will be no levity until everyone is properly mourned out.  In fact, I haven't even read about that happening in Blacksburg.  Maybe he was trying to reframe history, asserting that, after a term and a half of missteps, bungling and tragedies that the VA Tech shooting was the Worst Thing Imaginable?  However the President intended this, it came off (as usual) as a craven and transparent attempt at unachieved greatness.

However, at least one important fact came to light during the dinner: Karl Rove is a big crybaby who is afraid of girls.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:53 AM