Friday, January 26, 2007

A Confederacy of Dunces

Dan Froomkin highlights these quotations from Neil Lewis's article about the Libby Trial's opening statements (paragraphs from the article are rearranged and highlighted for a higher quality of snark):
Mr. Libby, Mr. Wells said, complained to Vice President Dick Cheney that he was being set up as a fall guy. Mr. Cheney supported that view, Mr. Wells said, and handwrote a note saying, "Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

Interpreting the vice president’s note, Mr. Wells said that "incompetence" was a reference to the fact that the C.I.A. had mistakenly allowed the White House to use inaccurate information in Mr. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. The staff official whom the vice president believed should not be protected, he said, was Mr. Rove. Mr. Libby had been assigned to speak to reporters to straighten out the confusion from Mr. Bush’s speech, a chore Mr. Cheney likened to sticking his head in the meat grinder.
This is a perjury trial, unfortunately, and not a congressional investigation into the false beginnings of a war. But what is briefly referred to here as CIA "incompetence" was the direct result of unrelenting pressure put directly on the CIA by Dick Cheney. In particular, the nuclear claim had been a political football between the White House, CIA, and Pentagon from at least October 2002 until the State of the Union speech in January 2003. People at the CIA had threatened to quit their jobs unless phrases related to Iraq's nuclear ambitions had been removed from assorted speeches.

But now it is shown that Cheney believes it can all be traced to the incompetence of others, despite his direct involvement on the wrong side of the argument.

In addition, Cheney and Libby's arrogance led towards another false conclusion.
This incident appears to have occurred in fall 2003, when Mr. Libby was troubled that Scott McClellan, then the White House press secretary, had publicly said that Mr. Rove had not been involved in the leak but had initially declined to do the same for Mr. Libby and others in the administration. At that time, Mr. Rove had a major role in guiding Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.
McClellan, who was considerably smarter than he appeared, went directly to the people concerned, and got their flat denial of involvement. He then went to the press room and passed on their statements. As a consequence, he is enjoying his time out of the White House, and he has never needed to hire a lawyer.

What they interpreted as deliberate inaction was simply the result of Rove's celebrity. McClellan didn't decline to do anything for Libby; no one was asking about Libby at that time. McClellan wouldn't have noticed anything either, since he had gotten Cheney's "word" that he was not involved.

Libby's lawyers should be smarter about discussing that note of Cheney's. Another way to translate his note is "The White House is willing to lie to protect Rove, but not my staffer, Libby. Therefore, he should be lying to protect himself."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

When last we posted...

... I was heading off to Costa Rica for two weeks.

I'm back. I am lightly tanned (one paint chip over), lightly bitten, and newly wise in the ways of monkeys. It was a good vacation.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.

That was the strange mine of souls.
As secret ores of silver they passed
like veins through its darkness. Between the roots
blood welled, flowing onwards to Mankind,
and it looked as hard as Porphyry in the darkness.
Otherwise nothing was red.

There were cliffs
and straggling woods. Bridges over voids,
and that great grey blind lake,
that hung above its distant floor
like a rain-filled sky above a landscape.

And between meadows, soft and full of patience,
one path, a pale strip, appeared,
passing by like a long bleached thing.

And down this path they came.

In front the slim man in the blue mantle,
mute and impatient, gazing before him.
His steps ate up the path in huge bites
without chewing: his hands hung,
clumsy and tight, from the falling folds,
and no longer aware of the weightless lyre,
grown into his left side,
like a rose-graft on an olive branch.

And his senses were as if divided:
while his sight ran ahead like a dog,
turned back, came and went again and again,
and waited at the next turn, positioned there —
his hearing was left behind like a scent.

Sometimes it seemed to him as if it reached
as far as the going of those other two,
who ought to be following this complete ascent.

Then once more it was only the repeated sound of his climb
and the breeze in his mantle behind him.
But he told himself that they were still coming:
said it aloud and heard it die away.
They were still coming, but they were two
fearfully light in their passage. If only he might
turn once more (if looking back
were not the ruin of all his work,
that first had to be accomplished), then he must see them,
the quiet pair, mutely following him:
the god of errands and far messages,
the travelling-hood above his shining eyes,
the slender wand held out before his body,
the beating wings at his ankle joints;
and on his left hand, as entrusted: her.

The so-beloved, that out of one lyre
more grief came than from all grieving women:
so that a world of grief arose, in which
all things were there once more: forest and valley,
and road and village, field and stream and creature:
and that around this grief-world, just as
around the other earth, a sun
and a silent star-filled heaven turned,
a grief-heaven with distorted stars —
she was so loved.

But she went at that god’s left hand,
her steps confined by the long grave-cloths,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She was in herself, like a woman near term,
and did not think of the man, going on ahead,
or the path, climbing upwards towards life.
She was in herself. And her being-dead
filled her with abundance.

As a fruit with sweetness and darkness,
so she was full with her vast death,
that was so new, she comprehended nothing.

She was in a new virginity
and untouchable: her sex was closed
like a young flower at twilight,
and her hands had been weaned so far
from marriage that even the slight god’s
endlessly gentle touch, as he led,
hurt her like too great an intimacy.

She was no longer that blonde woman,
sometimes touched on in the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide bed’s scent and island,
and that man’s possession no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair,
given out like fallen rain,
shared out like a hundredfold supply.

She was already root.

And when suddenly
the god stopped her and, with anguish in his cry,
uttered the words: ‘He has turned round—’
she comprehended nothing and said softly: ‘Who?’

But far off, darkly before the bright exit,
stood someone or other, whose features
were unrecognisable. Who stood and saw
how on the strip of path between meadows,
with mournful look, the god of messages
turned, silently, to follow the figure
already walking back by that same path,
her steps confined by the long grave-cloths,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Extraordinary bravery

Here are two stories about three heroes in New York City.
After giving the mayor thanks and a bear hug, Autrey recounted the details of the risky rescue for the media gathered at City Hall.

Hollopeter ... was at the subway station at 137th Street/City College when he suffered a seizure and fell onto the tracks just as a train was approaching.

Autrey was standing on the platform with his daughters and scores of other subway riders when he saw Hollopeter convulsing on the tracks. As he watched, he thought: "I'm the only one to do it."

He eyed the trough between the rails before jumping on top of the teenager, Autrey said, and relied on his experience as a construction worker used to "confined spaces" to calculate - in split seconds - that "maybe we have enough clearance."
Like many New Yorkers, I always wondered if those troughs in the middle of the subway tracks were deep enough to protect you if a train were passing overhead. I never knew the answer, and neither did Wesley Autrey, but he took the chance anyway with literally seconds to spare.

What incredible bravery.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On neutering the Republicans

President Bush "wrote" an editorial for the Wall St. Journal today.

Here's the part that made my wife sputter in a high-pitched voice like Beaker going mi-mi-mi
It is also a fact that our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues. Because revenues have grown and we've done a better job of holding the line on domestic spending, we met our goal of cutting the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule. By continuing these policies, we can balance the federal budget by 2012 while funding our priorities and making the tax cuts permanent. In early February, I will submit a budget that does exactly that. The bottom line is tax relief and spending restraint are good for the American worker, good for the American taxpayer, and good for the federal budget. Now is not the time to raise taxes on the American people.
Hardly a single word is true. The reality, of course, is that Bill Clinton and his Treasurer Robert Rubin were able to reverse the years of deficit spending after just four years. They built a trillion-dollar budget surplus that Bush blew through like a crack whore with a stolen credit card. These aren't secrets, guys. You can't lie about them.


Here's the part that made us laugh out loud.
One important message I took away from the election is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to slip into legislation billions of dollars of pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by Congress. I'm glad Senator Robert Byrd and Congressman Dave Obey--the Democrats who will lead the appropriations process in the new Congress--heard that message, too, and have indicated they will refrain from including additional earmarks in the continuing resolution for this fiscal year.

But we can and should do more. It's time Congress give the president a line-item veto. And today I will announce my own proposal to end this dead-of-the-night process and substantially cut the earmarks passed each year.
The reality, of course, is that earmarking is a bipartisan practice that he could have vetoed at any point in the previous six years. Bush tacitly approved the pork-barrel process, as all politicians do. However, here he only named Democrats after 12 years of this midnight thuggery practiced by Republicans. Therefore, he does plan on vetoing a spending bill, probably as soon as possible. Now that the GOP is out of congressional power, it's important to label the Dems as a tax-and-spend party again, so this is just the opening gun in the meme-wars. As it happens, he's right about Byrd, who should have been tossed out of office years ago for his piggy ways.

Another important part of reality is that a line-item veto was granted, back in 1996, and it was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by a 6-3 Supreme Court majority two years later. There are two ways Bush could get a line-item veto: one, they find a magic formula that will let it pass muster with the men in black; two, they pass a constitutional amendment. The first is possible, the second is not. In any case, there's no reason for this congress to do the president any favors.

Here's the part that made me mad.
Our Founders believed in the wisdom of the American people to choose their leaders and provided for the concept of divided and effective government. The majority party in Congress gets to pass the bills it wants. The minority party, especially where the margins are close, has a strong say in the form bills take. And the Constitution leaves it to the president to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law.
Suck my dick. The minority party was completely shut out of every major decision for 12 fucking years in the House, and six years in the Senate. They were unable to pass any significant amendments in any House Vote in literally years. Traditional practices that only helped the majority party were shamelessly promoted: keeping house votes open for hours, threatening to remove filibusters entirely. Worse, the Democrats were called traitors and cowards and weaklings, whether they voted for or against Bush's initiatives. Now we should play nice towards the minority party? Why, because we're the grown-ups?

I am sick to fucking death of hearing how Democrats should behave, after the self-righteous thundering at Bill Clinton's tiniest peccadillo was muted to dead silence after Bush started a needless war and shattered the protections that have been part of Common Law since the 13th century. You authoritarians, you seekers of a king to rule you, you just want to love a Daddy who is always right, don't you? You don't care what he actually does -- you're just thrilled to hear the voice of command, barking out orders like Tommy Lee Jones looking for Dr. Kimble. You don't notice your own insincerity and hypocrisy when you're lecturing the Democrats, and you certainly don't notice that your emperor is an incurious, incompetent dullard.

Grover Norquist famously compared the Democrats to neutered animals when they were the minority party:
Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such.
I honestly don't know what to say to the GOP. They have no sense of shame or responsibility over what they, and no one else, are responsible for. Bush is obviously mentally ill, but most of the Republican party has no such excuse for their actions and inactions. The bottom line is, they lost the election, badly. They're losing the war, badly. They've put the country in a terrible financial bind, with trillions in budgetary deficit, a record trade deficit, and a looming recession based on the weak housing market. It's a staggering record of incompetence and chicanery.

Now they can all go fuck themselves while we clean their mess up.

Experiences to avoid

If I may make suggestions, try not to lose your passport, then only discover it missing two days before an overseas trip. I have a whole day's worth of work to complete now, so color me cranky.

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