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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Emperor's Head Found in Sewer

From the BBC:
A 1,700-year-old carved marble head of Emperor Constantine has been found in a sewer in central Rome.

Archaeologists found the 60cm (2ft) head while clearing an ancient drainage system in the ruins of the Roman Forum....

Constantine, who reigned from 306 to 337, is known for ending persecution of Christians and founding Constantinople.

Although most of his subjects remained pagans, he is credited with helping to establish Europe's Christian roots by proclaiming religious freedom....

"We have concluded that the head did not fall by accident into the passage, but was put there on purpose.

"It could have been used as a big piece of stone to divert water from the drain, or it could have been put there to symbolise the resentment of a pagan people for their Christian emperor."
Think I'll have to carve out some time to launch a few Bush/Cheney stickers down the shitter.

My gift to posterity.


Leisure Suit Larry Strikes Again

Looks like Lawrence Summers is doing for African Americans what he did so effectively for women earlier this year. Adding another notch in the belt that already included driving away Afro-American scholars Cornell West and Anthony Appiah, he can now add the name of Conrad K. Harper, the only African-American member of Harvard's top governing board, who resigned saying he can "no longer support" Summers. Harper won't comment except to say he explained it all in a resignation letter which Summers is refusing to release.

When Larry arrived at Harvard, he made a point of saying publicly (as in, to the press) that the Afro-American studies department could expect "less of an open checkbook from my administration than the previous one," and was then apparently mystified when anyone took offense. Oh those touchy negroes.

He also endeared himself to Native Americans everywhere when he brushed off their historical suffering as a "coincidence" of assimilation and said it was "nobody's plan." Part Cherokee myself, I know I often enjoy thinking about the 4,000 who died along the Trail of Tears as akin to some favorite piece of crockery inevitably broken by well-meaning but clumsy moving men.

His supporters laughingly call him "blunt," which I assume must be some sort of Ivy league codeword for "asshole."

Harvard has been hemorrhaging top female scholars like Juliet Schor, Carol Gilligan, Seyla Benhabib, Ann Pellegrini and Rebecca Faery over its treatment of women faculty in general and the failure to grant tenure. Although the problem at Harvard is probably more systemic and can't be laid solely at Summers' feet, it's nice to know he's doing his part to insure that the leadership class being educated at Harvard continue to reflect the entitled yahoo white male perspective that's working so well right now in Washington.


No, Really

Tucker's show is moving to Late Nite:
The first question to Carlson was obvious: Are you ready to go up against Jon Stewart?

"Jon Stewart's got a funny show, Jon Stewart's a funny guy" -- when he's not acting like an associate journalism professor, Carlson said. "I think we're going after a different audience."
Oh look. Tucker has mastered irony.


Friday, July 29, 2005

The Art of Dick Cheney

"Jesus, Hunter, you gotta remember, these are genteel people." He nodded solemnly. "And this is their turf. Dean Rusk is a goddamn national hero down here. What are his friends supposed to think when the senator comes down from Washington to deliver the eulogy and the unveiling of Rusk's portrait, and he brings some guy with him who starts asking people why the artist didn't paint any blood on the hands?"
                      - Hunter Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt

From HalliburtonWatch:
Halliburton announced on Friday that its KBR division, responsible for carrying out Pentagon contracts, experienced a 284 percent increase in operating profits during the second quarter of this year.

The increase in profits was primarily due to the Pentagon's payment of "award fees" for what military officials call "good" or "very good" work done by KBR in the Middle East for America's taxpayers and the troops.

Despite the scandals that plague KBR's military contracts, the Pentagon awarded $70 million in "award" fees to the company, along with four ratings of "excellent" and two ratings of "very good" for the troop logistics work under the Army's LOGCAP contract....

Audits conducted by the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that KBR had $1 billion in "questioned" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors consider "unreasonable") and $442 million in "unsupported" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors have determined contain no receipt or any explanation on how the expenses were disbursed).

But the top Pentagon brass ignored these audits and rewarded KBR's work anyway.
And Dick Durbin's bill to reconvene the Truman WWII Committee on War Profiteering will pass when hell freezes over.

The Theater of the Absurd has been rendered irrelevant.

(Via Alternate Brain)


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thanks a Heap, You Bastards

Boy it really is outrage day today. Labor already knows it doesn't have a friend in the Republicans, but it sure got fist fucked by the Democratic Gang of 15 who sold out the part platform and paved the way for the further erosion of the American middle class by voting for the passage of CAFTA:
Consider the case of the port workers in El Salvador. Last December 34 workers were fired when they tried to form a union. Not only did the law not require their reinstatement (only severance pay), a month later the labor ministry denied the workers' registration petition because there were only seven workers left, not the 35 required by current law. (Both provisions have been criticized by State Department and ILO reports.) A CAFTA that does not seek to address these issues is bad for these individual workers, wrong for Central American nations desperately in need of a growing middle class, and unfair to both U.S. workers who should not compete with workers who are suppressed and to U.S. businesses in need of markets.
Nancy Pelosi has never flown real high on my radar but she's really pissed and considering kicking the Gang of 15 off juicy committee appointments. Considering that the evil CAFTA was something both me and my Republican mother could both agree needed defeating, and the Democrats once again missed an opportunity to show the country they stood for something especially in the South where NAFTA is already a four letter word, I should say fucking so.

That's absolutely necessary - why should Democrats who undermine their party be given plum committee assignments over other, far more loyal and principled Democrats? Pelosi should be commended for her courage - and now she needs to back up her words with action.
You can contact Nancy Pelosi here and let her know that you support her. If the Gang of 15 (5 of whom are from the DLC -- nice) need busy work I hope they can find something suitable. Personally I wouldn't trust 'em to clean up the dog poop in my back yard.


I Want To Be a Happy Happy Republican

Bill Frist must be a master of poetic irony. He fell 10 votes short on cloture that would have stopped the REPUBLICAN amendment by McCain, Graham and Warner to the defense authorization bill which would have restricted the use of torture. The entire bill will not be taken up again until September. Meanwhile, over at the Washington Note, we are told what the troops will have to do without so Preznit Hole Smoker can keep pissing in the air vents:
The Defense Authorization bill contains, oh lets see...provisions or amendments to provide more funds to war widows and orphans, up-armor for Humvees, support for the Boy Scouts of America, better health care for our veterans, chemical weapons destruction, help for families of deployed soldiers. I could go on and on. You name the item important to the nation's security the Defense Authorization contains it.
And what piece of nasty legislation did Frist slot into its place? Why the one protecting gun manufacturers from product liability. 'Cos they're kinda like the obstetricians of war, only not:
And linking the bill to the war in Iraq, Frist said that Beretta, the manufacturer of pistols to U.S. forces in Iraq, warned that it may go bankrupt if the lawsuits are not stopped.

"These frivolous suits threaten a domestic industry that is critical to our national defense," Frist said. "Given the profusion of litigation, the Department of Defense faces the very real prospect of outsourcing sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers."
I was kind of worried about people who are being asked to go to Iraq and you know, like, die, because nobody over there has been complaining about a shortage of Berettas, but there sure has been some noise about inadequate armor, health care, etc. But I took solace in the words of Republican Congressional candidate Jean Schmidt, who as President of Cincinnati Right to Life must be an expert on these things. She certainly knows more about what's important in this country than her opponent, Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett:
NOVOTNY: His opponent, Republican frontrunner Jean Schmidt, a former state representative who is not convinced that time served in battle can compare to experience at home.

JEAN SCHMIDT, OHIO REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Everything’s local. Of course, it’s more important here. The issues that the people have are more important to those individuals than anything outside of that region.
See if I become a Republican for the day it'll be so much cheerier. We don't have to think about nasty Iraq, we can just lie down on a comfy mountain of cash and spread our legs for Smith & Wesson.

'Cos the old me would've said you're gonna wear that one around your neck like an anvil, bitch. The new me can just go shopping for handbags at Gucci's.

Update: I fell off the wagon in less than 45 minutes. Five days to go, Schmidt is tanking, Hackett is within 5 points and the thought of all those grassroots volunteers going door to door in a heavily Republican district simply got the best of me -- so I gave some money to Hackett (*sigh*). I know, I know it's pathetic. No Gucci bag for Jane.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dennis Hastert, Bobbing and Weaving

As we mentioned here before, Patrick J. Fitzgerald's term of office as US attorney ends in October, and the man whose recommendation lead to his appointment in the first place -- former Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald (oft confused but not related) -- says that pressure is mounting to get him the hell out of office:
"I'd be pleasantly surprised if Speaker Hastert recommended Patrick Fitzgerald for reappointment," the former senator said in a telephone interview, echoing comments he made in a WGN-TV interview Wednesday.

"But I'm beginning to sense that a lot of people, a lot of criminals, may hope that October brings them a new U.S. attorney in Chicago, one perhaps a little bit more malleable and acceptable to influence from leading Republicans and leading Democrats."
Dennis Hastert is now the top ranking member of the President's party in Illinois now that Peter Fitzgerald is gone (he chose not to run in 2004 and Obama won his seat), and it is traditionally on him to recommend who will get the job, a request with which the President usually complies. Hastert has consistently refused to answer questions about what he will do about Patrick Fitzgerald's future.

But now it looks like he doesn't want to be the one left responsible for sacking Fitzgerald while Preznit What Me Worry says "awe shucks it's out of my hands":
But officials with Hastert's office argued reappointment is a less formal process that will not involve the speaker.

"This is a decision that rests with the Bush Administration," Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said. "The speaker has chosen not to get involved in this matter and although he does not know U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald he believes that he is a qualified prosecutor."
Translation: This pig is leaking to the gunwales and I want off.

Digby and others have suggested that one exit strategy for BushCo. from the whole Traitorgate fiasco could come when Pat Roberts' committee holds hearing, and people like Rove and Libby can be granted immunity for their testimony. Another could presumably come when Patrick Fitzgerald suddenly finds himself the proud recipient of a red hot pink slip. Although his job in Illinois is distinct from the Plame investigation it is not clear how one would effect the other, since one of the ways of removing him is to "promote" him to some other post.

The Chicago Tribune article concludes:
A White House spokeswoman said no decision has been made, one way or the other, on reappointing Fitzgerald.
Well tie me up and call me Loretta. No shit.

Update: Josh Marshall writes that he thinks this is an attempt by Hastert to intimidate Fitzgerald, and that he might be the one to sack him. I think Josh got it wrong. I think Hastert's statement indicates he wants nothing to do with this, and if the President wants Fitzgerald canned he's going to have to do it himself. Maybe Hastert has a vision for a political career past the reign of the Cheney administration.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why Nobody Watches Tucker Carlson: Reason #9,675

Because he's a world-class beatoff.

Tonight Tucker advanced the argument that Islamic clerics should be protesting against terrorists by booting them from the faith.

Before going any further with his career as a shill for the religious right, he might want to familiarize himself with exactly what it is that Christian fundamentalism believes in. Specifically he should take a look at John 3:16, which in addition to being the sandwich board of choice for street corner nutjobs everywhere is also the heart of the Christian gospels:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Dig it, Tucker: it doesn't matter what kind of heinous ass-raping, fratricidal racist thug you are, if you profess faith in Jesus Christ your name is already on the guest list at the pearly gates, and there it will stay, no matter what you do in this life. That is why Preznit Never Responsible can do enough blow to deviate the septum of a rhinoceros and still be beloved by Christo Fascists everywhere.

Even I would not think to ask the likes of Jerry Fallwell and James Dobson to kick abortion clinic bombers from the fold, not only because it would serve to further politicize religious leaders but because it just isn't part of their faith. But before Tucker gets around to dictating religious decorum to the Muslim world, maybe he ought to call on the Focus on the Family crowd to issue a press release saying Eric Rudolph is going to hell.



Monday, July 25, 2005

Brewin' the News

Matt Taibbi's job interview:
“Okay,” he said. “It’s Monday morning. There were no late-breaking stories on Sunday night. The president is in Belize, attending an international conference on greenhouse gases. What are you looking for when you scan the wires on the way to work?”

“That’s easy,” I said. “A blond white child trapped in a dumpster.”


“Anywhere,” I said. “Montana. Missouri. Florida. It’ll probably be Florida – that’s the first place I’ll look.”

“Okay,” he said. “What are your top three standup locations?”

“All right,” I said. “One, outside the idyll suburban home from whence he was snatched. You’ll want the still-ajar window in the shot. Two, in front of the police barriers at the nearby landfill where, sources say, a search with ‘cadaver dogs’ is being conducted. Three, outside the squalid home/trailer of the ‘person of interest.’ If there’s no overturned Big Wheel in the foreground, buy one.”
I always like the narrative value of the refrigerator on the front porch shot, but that may have more of an Alabama flavor to it.


Rove Launches His Smear Campaign

In addition to helping the CIA define of the word "covert," White House tool Pat Roberts sez:
The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could hold hearings on the use of espionage cover soon after the U.S. Congress returns from its August recess, said Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little.

Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.
Unfuckingbelievable. Except you knew it was coming.

Update: Josh Marshall says that last year Roberts refused to allow the Committee to look into the Niger forgeries, saying that he didn't want to interfere with an ongoing investigation:
So it would seem that any overlap between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry is a big no-no to Roberts.

And yet now we hear that he plans to investigate Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation itself.

What this man won't do when Karl Rove calls.
Sometimes whore sounds most appropriate when it is pronounced as a two syllable word, as in hooo--er.



Much of the GOP-orchestrated smear of Joe Wilson has been based on the "findings" of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2004 chaired by Rovian sex dwarf Pat Roberts of Kansas, who along with comrades like Orrin Hatch stuffed the report with enough BushCo. friendly-addenda to keep Ken Mehlman in talking points for donkey's years.

But the committee stopped before it could tackle the sticky subject of political manipulation of WMD intelligence that they promised to do in the 2004 report, saying that there wasn't "enough time." On the heels of assertions by Larry Johnson and other former CIA agents to the effect that "of course Valerie Plame was covert, dickhead," the committee members have presumably cleared enough church picnics and Pfizer fundraisers off their schedules to look into whether the CIA knows the meaning of the word "covert."

Josh Marshall:
For two years now defenders of the White House have been arguing that Valerie Wilson (nee Plame) wasn't 'outed' or damaged in any way because she wasn't really covert in the first place. The arguments have been various: she was a glorified secretary, she hadn't kept her status a secret, she hadn't been abroad recently enough, she worked at Agency headquarters, etc. etc. etc.

There's always been a ready answer to the toadies peddling these excuses. No one on the outside really knows the details of Plame's service. By definition, her superiors at the CIA do. And they wouldn't have made a criminal referral if the law didn't even apply to the person in question.

In other words, either this whole debate about her status is rendered moot by the original CIA referral to DOJ, or you must believe that the referral was knowingly fraudulent.

Those who are so Bush-true as to hypothesize that the CIA made a knowingly fraudulent referral would have to contend with the fact that the Bush Justice Department and then later Patrick Fitzgerald both concluded that the referral was a valid one.

The only other possibility -- one which I've referred to jokingly in the past -- is to argue that she wasn't covert enough. That is to say, maybe she was covert to the CIA. But she really wasn't covert up to the standards of say, Bill Safire or Tucker Carlson or Bill O'Reilly.

And this, understand, is the premise of the new Roberts' hearings. Was she really covert enough? And does the CIA really know how to define 'covert.'


The only reason Chairman Roberts now wants hearings into this question is that it might generate more fodder for excuse-making for those who will climb any mountain and ford any stream to avoid holding any of the president's lieutenants to account.
In other words, they'll look into the Downing Street Memo and the frivolous subject of fixing intelligence that lead to the deaths of 1700 Americans and untold Iraqis with all the urgency I devote to alphabetizing my spice rack.

Thanks again, Kansas.

Update -- Geoff, from the comments:
I guess Pat Roberts and his ilk got their idea of what it means to be covert from Get Smart. You go into a fake phone booth, then down a tunnel with several sets of doors, and into the Cone of Silence with Himey the Robot.

Covert people would never, like, actually drive to work.

Now that's funny.


Spicoli for SCOTUS


Lambert at Corrente:
It gets better. Not only did Roberts, um, forget that he was in the Federalist Society's Leadership Directory, he forgot that he was on the Steering Committee.
Yeah, I forgot large chunks of the 90s myself, but I was loaded.

All he needs are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and he's fine.

(via Alternate Brain)


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Live By the Starr, Die By the Starr

Fred Thompson was dutifully doing his job as official BushCo. water carrier for John Roberts' confirmation this morning on Press the Meat. He claimed that the White House is under no obligation to turn over documents that Roberts prepared while working for various presidents, because no recent administration, including Bill Clinton's, has done so.
“Conversations he has with his priest, conversations he has with his doctor or his wife or his client are matters that are off limits, basically,” said Thompson.
Matt at calls bullshit:
Thompson knows full well that Roberts’ work product as a government employee isn’t covered by attorney-client privilege, ironically thanks to the man who hired Roberts to be his deputy, Kenneth Starr.
He points to an article by John Dean, who says the rules have changed since the Clinton administration, and it is ironically for this reason that Bush also had to hire a private personal attorney to represent him in TraitorGate:
The reason the privilege was created was to insure open and candid discussion between a lawyer and his or her client. It traditionally applied in both civil and criminal situations for government lawyers, just as it did for non-government lawyers. It applied to written records of communications, such as attorney's notes, as well as to the communications themselves.

But Starr tried to thwart that tradition in two different cases, before two federal appeals courts. There, he contended that there should be no such privilege in criminal cases involving government lawyers.

In the first case, In re Grand Jury Subpoenas Duces Tecum, former First Lady Hillary Clinton had spoken with her private counsel in the presence of White House counsel (who had made notes of the conversation). Starr wanted the notes. Hillary Clinton claimed the privilege.

A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with Starr. The court held that a grand jury was entitled to the information. It also held that government officials -- even when serving as attorneys -- had a special obligation to provide incriminating information in their possession.

In the second case, In re Lindsey, Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey refused to testify about his knowledge of President Clinton's relationship to Monica Lewinsky, based on attorney-client privilege. Starr sought to compel Lindsey's testimony, and he won again.

This time, Starr persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to follow the Eighth Circuit. The court ruled that exposure of wrongdoing by government lawyers fostered democracy, as "openness in government has always been thought crucial to ensuring that the people remain in control of their government."

Based on these precedents, President Bush has almost certainly been told that the only way he can discuss his potential testimony with a lawyer is by hiring one outside the government.
Maybe it's this ease at dissembling that made Thompson's transition from politics to acting so seamless.

Sez Matt:
Refusing to release these documents and the likely lack of responsiveness during Roberts’ Senate confirmation hearings mirror the failed nomination of Miguel Estrada. Estrada was nominated to a lower court. Senate Democrats simply cannot allow this tactic to be successful at the Supreme Court level. A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land is not something to be considered in the dark. The filibuster must remain an option in response to administration and nominee secrecy.
This was Harry Reid on Estrada in 2002:
Migrada Estrada has literally had no paper trail. Despite what some of my colleagues have said on the other side of the aisle, it is indisputable that Solicitor General memoranda have been turned over in the past. For example, the Department of Justice turned over Solicitor General memoranda for Bork, Rehnquist, and Easterbrook. On executive branch appointments, the Department of Justice turned over memoranda for Benjamin Civiletti.

While my colleagues may note that former Solicitors General have written a letter opposing the release of these memos, they cite no legal authority for keeping these memos secret. Basically what they say is it would impede these people from writing their opinions. It doesn't happen very often that these people are asked to serve on the second highest court of the land. It is not often they are asked to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. But in cases in the past when that has occurred, with Rehnquist, Bork and, of course, another important appointment, Easterbrook, they were made available. And they should be made available here. (my emphasis)
With typical preemptory arrogance, BushCo. has already announced that it will not release all memos and documents Roberts wrote during his tenure with two Republican administrations. If the Democrats go supine over this after successfully defeating Estrada over the very same issues, sign me up to kick 'em around the block a few times, too.


TraitorGate Roundup

A digest of interesting bits for those whose O/C disorder is currently focused on TraitorGate:

-- Lawrence O'Donnell says that the reason Camp Rove have been in leak city is because they want to be able to claim "old news" by the time Fitzgerald releases his indictments. But according to a post by Al Rogers, Gloria Borger of CBS News reported that the Grand Jury convened again on Friday to question someone. Methinks perhaps they leak too much.

-- The NYT has a pretty good rundown of the events leading up to the smear Wilson campaign, and they make it clear that Rove and Libby were the ones left to orchestrate it because everyone else was on Air Force One bound for Senegal at the time. Sort of like High Noon starring Gomer and Goober, who go straight into fuck-up mode.

-- Frank Rich lets us know that right after Novak's column appeared, ABC's "World News Tonight" broadcast those soldiers in Falujah who were seriously hacked off that their tours of duty were being extended yet again. Soon Matt Drudge announced that the ABC correspondent, Jeffrey Korman, was gay -- based on information he got from the White House. Wait -- hold on to your chairs -- Scott McClellan denied it. It had all the hallmarks of a Rovian smear campaign, except this time Korman actually was gay, and quite out of the closet. Ooops.

-- The next time some wingnut bobblehead starts chattering about the memo Valerie Plame wrote "recommending" her husband, please quote Larry Johnson:
"The Senate Intelligence Report is frequently cited by Republican partisans as 'proof' that Valerie sent her husband to Niger because she sent a memo describing her husband’s qualifications to the Deputy Division Chief. Several news personalities, such as Chris Matthews and Bill O’Reilly, continue to repeat this nonsense as proof. What the Senate Intelligence Committee does not include in the report is the fact that Valerie’s boss had asked her to write a memo outlining her husband’s qualifications for the job. She did what any good employee does: she gave her boss what he asked for. The decision to send Joe Wilson on the mission to Niger was made by Valerie’s bosses. She did not have the authority to sign travel vouchers, issue travel orders, or expend one dime of U.S. taxpayer dollars on her own."
Not that it will make a damn bit of difference. But at least you will be entitled to moral superiority and self-righteous indignation, which is always a good time.

-- Let the smear campaign begin: They're dragging out a parade of (*choke*) "legal ethics experts" to challenge Patrick Fitzgerald's recent hiring of a (supremely qualified) woman who helped recommend him for his job. Talk about a tempest in a teapot. Or a brainstorm at the Corner. What's that noise? Why I think it's the sound of Ken Mehlman scribbling away like a bug-eyed fiend...


Yarr, Skippy!

It's over. Last night Skippy beat out Sadly, No! in a real nail biter, and is now the new lead singer for INXS.

Congratulations to Skippy. And to the Sadly, No! crew, two words: Clay Aiken.