21 February 2008

Requiem for the Suspect America Act

This week House Democrats finally did something they were elected to do two Novembers ago, albeit with their trademark passive-aggressiveness and aversion to confrontation with the Bush administration.

In vacating the Capitol for a week-plus recess, the Democratic leadership will kill, for the time being, the Protect America Act and its heinous provisions of legal immunity for telecommunications companies who may have allowed the Bush Administration to collect private information on its customers.

Shielding corporations from lawsuits was a consistent hallmark of GOP misrule during the Bush era. When Republicans claimed to be the "Party of Personal Responsibility," they might have been more clear; they have indeed been the party of shifting the burden of responsibility for corporate negligence onto the individual persons who are injured.

Once again, the Republican leadership and its willing stooges among the Democrats sought to inoculate the telecommunications industry against lawsuits and criminal charges for assisting the National Security Agency in warrantless wiretapping and data mining for alleged anti-terrorism programs.

It's important to note that what is being proposed is retroactive immunity. The White House and the NSA use this term, even though it acknowledges implicitly that the telecoms were knowingly engaged in criminal conduct and now must be protected from the consequences.

AT&T and company, faced with the choice of obeying the Constitution or an administration notorious for skirting the letter and spirit of the law, chose wrong. There was no obligation for them to assist the White House with a program that even many security hawks acknowledge is inessential to intercepting terrorist communications.

We can hope this portends a shift in attitudes on the part of IT companies with regard to their customers' privacy, even that they might glance at the Constitution before giving bureaucrats free rein with their files.

14 February 2008

12 February 2008

FOX Presents: Be Terrified
   Today's episode: Pregnant women

If you're not sufficiently spooked by the mortal danger facing you at the hands of hippies, Muslims, strangers, foreigners, your neighbors, subway riders, and mentally retarded people, our friends at FOX have some great news for you!

Pregnant women are the fresh new faces on the 'imminent threat' charts. According to the heads at Homeland Security and the FBI, suicide bombing is about to go Hollywood, combining Islamic extremists' famous fondness for bloody mayhem and Shallow Hal.

It works like this: Women are fitted with fat suits equipped with IEDs in the belly. If you've ever been on an airplane, you know that pregnant women and old people get speedy and preferential service at the security gate, barely earning a second look.

And as we've been warned before, al-Qaeda, in their persistent hatred of all things free and democratic -- with a lower-case 'D', of course; we know they love the Democratic Party -- mean to exploit the human kindness and decency that are hallmarks of our way of life, in order to destroy it. We know this because FOX and the GOP have told us so. Every day for seven years.

And even though DHS says that there is "no specific or credible intelligence" to suggest that there are plans in the works to carry out this sort of attack in America, our friends there and at FOX thought they'd give us a running start on casting suspicious glares at everyone we meet, anywhere we happen to be. Let's thank our government and our news outlets for the heads-up and unite in putting the terrorists on notice: You can't destroy American liberal society, we'll do it ourselves!

10 February 2008


There's this dumb little site called You're the Man Now Dog which I regrettably spent half my waking hours on. For the uninitiated, it's basically a nerd community that makes abstract art installations out of still images, short audio clips and zooming text. Some people go a little further and make what are known in YTMND as "faggy short films," elaborate efforts made over hours or even days in Photoshop and ImageReady to make what's usually an only slightly funny joke.


If you have no idea what the hell you're looking at, click the link and check it out. If you're still snowed, LURK MOAR.

09 February 2008

Sunday Sentinel: Jascha Heifetz

I used to have a ritual called 'Sober Sundays' where I'd forego my vices for the most part, go to a Quaker meeting and spend my day exercising and engaged in productive activity and reading. But in a pinch, I think posting a classy YouTube video of pretty music is an ample substitute.

Jascha Heifetz fiddles Debussy.

Hear, hear!: Blue Gal

The lies we tell ourselves

On Crooks and Liars' blog round-up today, David Seaton's News Links purports to examine the somewhat fawning praise heaped lately upon the person of Barack Obama by certain commentators on the right. It soon devolves, however, into the sort of recitation of talking points the Clinton campaign would pay bloggers to flood comment boards with.

Seaton refers to recent op-eds by conservatives by George Will, Peggy Noonan and David Brooks and assesses them as a false-flag operation by Republicans to get Obama nominated, because

To me, it's perfectly obvious that the right wing is licking their chops in anticipation at facing Obama. ...

It is this simple: in recent decades the Clintons are the only Democrats that win elections against Republicans... They don't want to ever face them again, no more complicated than that.

He has it precisely backwards. The Clintons have a record of winning elections against Republican lightweights, thanks not to their political prowess but to a man named Ross H. Perot. If 51% isn't a mandate, neither is 49% or 43%.

Yes, Obama won his Senate race against a nobody from nowhere, but even if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, Obama's ability to run so strong against her given all her natural advantages shows just how weak a candidate she is and will be.

Hillary wouldn't have stood a chance in her first Senate race if not for Rudy Giuliani's bum prostate. As for her landslide re-election, quick: name her opponent. Incidentally, she won with 70% in the 2006 general election, yet in last week's closed New York Democratic presidential primary she garnered only 57% of the vote. In her true home state of Illinois she got whomped by a margin of 30 points.

Barack Obama, whether you vote for him or not (I did) has attracted the support of millions of people with the simple message that a little empathy would go a long way toward civilizing our politics and actually reforming our government. The brilliant part is how Obama has forced Clinton to campaign on just the opposite tack: That the system is irrevocably broken and we need a president who can manage the chaos.

Against the not-outlandish optimism that the respective interests of Republicans and Democrats are not so divergent as to be intractable, Clinton sounds ridiculous and anachronistic when she touts her "35 years" of fighting against "those people" as a credential for the job she's seeking. Some of "those people" are our friends and neighbors and we get along great even though we disagree on politics.

Clinton partisans can not begin to understand how a Democrat could say something positive or even neutral about a Republican, and the reverse throws them for just as big a loop. They misinterpret the straightforward statement that Obama is a formidable candidate against any Republican -- he has outperformed Clinton in nearly every single general election matchup poll taken to date -- as some clumsy reverse psychology scheme to trick the Democrats into nomination the weaker candidate.

08 February 2008

You so crazy

So much has been made by the salivating talking heads over the disaster awaiting the Democrats in the event of a brokered Democratic convention this August as to downplay the out-and-out cannibal mutiny underway in the Republican Party.

After eight years spent defending the negligent jerks currently holding the executive branch hostage, the strategy the right is deploying against Sen. John McCain is baffling on its face -- to say nothing else, he is the Republicans' only prayer to hold on to the White House in November. But the idea that in doing so conservatives are standing on consistent principle is retarded. There's just no other word for it.

They have spent the last seven years telling their audience and the country that the only issues that mattered were the Iraq war and staying "on offense" on terrorism, all others be damned. Limbaugh and Hannity and Levin and all the rest have told us with straight faces that a Republican president is the only thing protecting us from certain doom and that the Democrats would establish a tax credit to reimburse al-Qaeda for their dynamite expenses.

That's why they stuck with Bush when he signed the $400 billion $1 trillion Medicare prescription drug bill. That's why they hung with him when he let Ted Kennedy write No Child Left Behind. He signed McCain/Feingold and was a proponent of last year's failed immigration reform bill, both bits of legislation currently being used to flog McCain's wrinkly bottom. Bush had to be re-elected. The stakes were just too high, they said.

Now, in a year when all signs point to a Democratic takeover of the White House and gains in both houses of Congress, as the war in which the United States is mired has made the sitting president slightly less popular than crotch fungus, McCain, who hit all the right notes on the issue that conservatives claimed was their top priority yet somehow retained the approval of many anti-war Democrats and independents, is being lambasted as an apostate.

If the rhetoric of the last few weeks proves anything about today's Republican Party it is that they are not the party of national security or robust foreign policy or the family. They are the party of upward redistribution of wealth. Never mind that McCain has done everything but get "The Surge Is Working" tattooed on his forehead. He voted against the Almighty Tax Cuts™.

In recent days Limbaugh has fielded several calls sympathetic to the idea of sitting out the 2008 election, or even casting their ballot for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, presumably assenting to unleash the twin furies of Muslim extremism and socialized medicine upon the United States in order to teach the electorate a needed lesson. The comic phrase "You need to suffer through a Carter to get a Reagan" comes up rather often.

It's not as though McCain is a country-club Rockefeller Republican. He's more or less a federalist in the Goldwater mold -- he supports bans on abortion and gay marriage on the state level but has voted against amendments to the U.S. Constitution to those ends.

But the conservative club in the Party doesn't feel like they own him, which is surprising, considering his recent reversal on the Bush tax cuts, and his mending of fences with the Reverends Robertson and Falwell.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney, who was affirmatively pro-choice just five years ago and presided as governor over the first and only state in the Union to amend its Constitution to allow gay marriage, signaled early on his status as bidding-doing property of the Limbaugh/Club For Growth/Focus on the Family axis, and was embraced into the fold.

McCain gets no such truck with conservatives for his record or his outreach efforts, because as President, he would probably make up his own mind on most matters and not defer to the power brokers on the right.

So despite having kissed butt and making an impassioned convention speech in 2004 after Bush took a Texas-size shit all over him in the 2000 primary, despite having been a Vietnamese pincushion for five years to defend his nation, which he obviously loves, all this doesn't even elevate him slightly above Bush in the eyes of movement conservatives.

The upshot is that the Democrats can have as nasty a primary as is necessary to produce a nominee, because the opposition has completely lost its way.

07 February 2008

Rush passes the hat for Hillary

Rush Limbaugh announced on his talk radio show Thursday a fundraising effort to help lift Sen. Hillary Clinton to the Democratic nomination for President.

Limbaugh cited the news released earlier today of the Clinton campaign's flagging finances, and the popular perception that the former First Lady would be a weaker candidate against a Republican in the general election than her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

Of Obama, Limbaugh said, "You don't get the fear and loathing off of him" that would motivate conservatives to get out and vote for Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain. McCain has recently faced a firestorm of criticism from many in his own party for being too moderate, or even too liberal, to bear the GOP standard.

Limbaugh also unveiled the slogan for his fund drive: "Keep her in it so we can win it." More here

Gore's secret strategy

For all the photo ops and press avails held by the various presidential candidates heralding endorsements by elected officials, celebrities and other dignitaries, former Vice President Al Gore has arguably attracted more attention for his reluctance -- so far -- to throw his muscle and prestige behind a Democratic contender.

Gore cast his ballot here in Tennessee on Tuesday, and there was some buzz in the days leading up to the "national primary" that he would endorse Senator Barack Obama. That never materialized, but two short days later Internet politicos are once again circulating rumors that an announcement of support by the ex-Veep was imminent.

It is no secret that Gore, winner of the popular vote in the 2000 presidential race, feels he was swindled out of the presidency by a party-line vote of the Supreme Court. Up until votes started being cast and counted this primary season, the recent Oscar and Nobel Prize recipient was rumored as a candidate.

Given the open antipathy that has existed between Gore and both Clintons since the end of the previous administration, and the consensus between Gore and Obama on the big issues, the lack of an endorsement, as we find ourselves in a deadlocked delegate battle, is a puzzle.

Let there be no doubt that Gore knows his own strength, and feels it, and is well aware of his status as the most popular and respected figure in the Democratic Party. He knows, also, that the sentimental longing for a Gore administration that might have been is far stronger than nostalgia for the Clinton years, within the party and the country generally.

In a campaign of back-and-forth brawls between the amorphous ideals of "Change" and "Experience," Al Gore -- Congressman, Senator, Vice President (and, to some, duly-elected President) who also made America safe for environmentalism -- is the one person with the credentials to trump both current front-runners on both counts.

If either Senator Obama or Clinton establishes a convincing lead in delegates in the coming months, Gore will back the victor in order to secure the superdelegates for the popular choice. But if the Democratic race remains deadlocked and the party heads to Denver in August without a clear nominee, expect Gore to emerge as the compromise candidate for president, and to name Obama as his running mate.

It is in the Democrats' interest, as DNC Chairman Howard Dean stated Wednesday, to avoid a brokered convention, which would alienate the half of the party whose preferred candidate is left off the ticket. Who better to unite the party, following what figures to be a bruising and bitter nominating contest, than the man uncynically referred to by legions of adorers as "The Goracle"?