Category Archives: Politics/Law

The times, they are or are not a-changing.

Andrew Sullivan writes in the Sunday Times about the ongoing torture going on in Iraq, and about an American soldier, Ian Fishback, who’s doing his best to bring the injustice to light. After doing all he could to inform his superiors, who were unwilling to take his concerns seriously, Fishback kept moving up the line until he got to decorated veteran and POW John McCain. His letter to McCain (quoted in Sullivan’s piece) paints an ugly picture of horrible and officially-sanctioned behavior, before, during, and after the events of Abu Ghraib.
This is pretty astonishing and awful in itself, but it also seems like the most recent example of a serious conservative taking issue with the policies and behavior of people near the top of the GOP (especially the White House). Most of the criticism of Miers is being launched from the Right. The war in Iraq is enjoying little-to-no support, both among voters and their representatives. The way the federal government bungled Katrina, whether due to incompetence or worse, had people all over the political spectrum up in arms. Tom DeLay, whether he ends up convicted of anything or not, seems to have been involved in some pretty shady behavior. The economy isn’t exactly thriving. Oil prices have stabilized, maybe, but they’re higher than ever. The environment is getting lip service. And now it seems that the malfeasance exemplified by the Abu Ghraib scandal will be coming back into the spotlight.

I’m not saying these things are the result of conservative values–if anything, I’d say that a lot of what’s gone wrong in the last 6 years has been due to a renunciation of the values the GOP has traditionally trumpeted. And the rest? A renunciation of ethical, democratic (i.e. democracy, not Ted Kennedy), and compassionate values. How much worse can it get for the GOP? And what’s going to be the result of it all?

I guess Karen Hughes declined.

GWB nominated Harriet Miers for the SC. She’s never served as a judge and now she’s been put forward to be one of the judges on the highest court in the country. That’s pretty interesting, no? I wonder what kind of response she’ll get from the Democrats–feigned outrage, or real outrage?
Joel Achenbach has a pretty hilarious perspective on it:

The president carefully and deliberately selected as his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court position the first person he ran into in the hallway this morning. He has been up front about this technique all along, what he called “the dartboard approach.” It could have been anyone — an usher, a steward, a dog-walker, the guy carrying the nuclear codes. Liberals will rejoice that it wasn’t Rove.

In other news, a child predator chairs the committee to prevent child predators.

A man wants to ban Fahrenheit 451, a book about the travesty that is banning books, during banned books week. And he hasn’t read it.

Alton Verm, of Conroe, objects to the language and content in the book. His 15-year-old daughter Diana, a CCHS sophomore, came to him Sept. 21 with her reservations about reading the book because of its language.
“The book had a bunch of very bad language in it,” Diana Verm said. “It shouldn’t be in there because it’s offending people. … If they can’t find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn’t have a book at all.”

[Daring Fireball, among others]

Great Moments in Journalism*

*But not really.

Michael Gerson is very worried about vulgarity in politics:

In 2006, after a long monologue about a dog and its vomit, Franken impersonated the deceased Sen. Strom Thurmond as saying: “Yeah, I screwed a woman who was vomiting once.” He once proposed a television sketch about a female CBS reporter being drugged and raped. He has suggested that his next book title might be “I F — — — Hate Those Right-Wing Motherf — — — !” At an event hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1999, Franken offered this thigh-slapper: “Why don’t we focus on what Afghan women can do? They can cook, bear children and pray. As I recall, that was fine for our grandmothers.”

Our popular culture, of course, violates even these expansive boundaries of tastelessness with regularity. We laugh at comedies featuring the C-word and at cartoons of foul-mouthed third-graders. In the cause of relevance and realism, our common life is already decorated with excrement. Why should political discourse be any different?

For at least one reason: Because vulgarity is often the opposite of civility.

Incidentally, I think “I F — — — Hate Those Right-Wing Motherf — — — !” would make for a great title. It makes its point quite artfully, and is much better than the title of Bill O’Reilly’s upcoming tome.

My favorite part is where he explains that when his friend is vulgar, it’s okay, but when RAPPERS do it, it’s loathsome. Not sure I understand why that is… maybe because his friend has a terminal degree? But a lot of rappers, apparently, have doctorates, so that can’t be it. Hmmm… what could it be?

Also, remember when Dick Cheney told a senator, on the floor of the Senate, to “fuck yourself“? Or when George Bush called a reporter “a major league asshole“? Weird how Gerson, former Bush speechwriter and policy advisor, doesn’t mention those incidents in his condemnation of Al Franken (who has, as of yet, never even been elected to any office that I know of).

What a load of (to pick a civil word) manure.

But let’s get back to Franken for a minute. Gerson takes great offense to Franken’s description of his work as “satire.” Because it uses naughty language, and stereotypes, and even sexual imagery. Well, yes, I think we can all agree that it does those things. But, last I checked, in pursuit of satire we aren’t limited to the scrabble dictionary and the Comics Code. Sometimes, offensive content and objectionable imagery is the most effective way of making a point. Let’s look at an example from Gerson’s op-ed:

At an event hosted by the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1999, Franken offered this thigh-slapper: “Why don’t we focus on what Afghan women can do? They can cook, bear children and pray. As I recall, that was fine for our grandmothers.”

Okay. So does anyone out there think that Franken, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who loves taxes, abortions, and homosexuals, said those words sincerely? AT A FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION EVENT??? Of course not. This is, what’s the word, sarcasm. Franken is making a point–to limit women to these traditional roles is horrible, stupid, and maybe even terrorism! Okay, probably not really terrorism, but you can’t deny the Afghanistan connection. Better send in some troops, just to be safe.

Okay, where was I. Oh, right. Gerson is just being disingenuous. He knows Franken doesn’t seriously believe women should only cook, bear children, and pray. He knows Franken was joking. And, more generally, he knows that there’s nothing seriously objectionable about Franken’s humor–except that he is a liberal and is running for the Senate. This piece is deeply cynical, condescending, and just plain wrong.

For the record: I like Al Franken and think he would make a very good representative. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few more politicians who are funny on purpose?

This is not appropriate behavior.

White House E-Mail Lost in Private Accounts
White House staff, including one Karl Rove, used outside email accounts for official communications–to get around the fact that all White House email is supposed to be permanently saved and publicly available.

The White House acknowledged yesterday that e-mails dealing with official government business may have been lost because they were improperly sent through private accounts intended to be used for political activities. Democrats have been seeking such missives as part of an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Administration officials said they could offer no estimate of how many e-mails were lost but indicated that some may involve messages from White House senior adviser Karl Rove, whose role in the firings has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats.

Democrats have charged that Rove and other officials may have used the private accounts, set up through the Republican National Committee, in an effort to avoid normal review. Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision-making and deliberations. White House aides’ use of their political e-mail accounts to discuss the prosecutor firings has also fanned Democratic accusations that the actions were politically motivated.

Of particular note is how egregious a violation of White House policy this is:

“Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff,” says the handbook that all staffers are given and expected to read and comply with.

“As a result, personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication.”

The handbook further explains: “The official EOP e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements.”

And if that wasn’t clear enough, the handbook notes — as was the case in the Clinton administration — that “commercial or free e-mail sites and chat rooms are blocked from the EOP network to help staff members ensure compliance and to prevent the circumvention of the records management requirements.” (from Froomkin’s blog)

Yeesh. How is this not a huge issue? Why did this story disappear from the Washington Post front page so fast? (The link to Froomkin’s blog is up there, at least for now, but I had to delve into the bottom of the politics page to find the actual story.) Is there any question that as soon as this story got legs every White House staffer implicated by the scandal initiated a scorched earth campaign on his/her inbox? Why does every administration think it can or should get away with this kind of obfuscatory malfeasance? The American People demand answers!!!

[Dan Froomkin’s blog post, Washington Post story]

Life imitates Art. Or vice versa.

Cheney’s Office Is Focus In Leak Investigation

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney’s office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney’s long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

Well that’s interesting. The West Wing is starting to seriously remind me of The West Wing.
At any rate, it’s been hard to keep the Valerie Plame fiasco at the forefront of my attention over the last 2+ years–there’s been a lot going on. But let’s take a moment to remember that somebody outed a CIA agent over what appears to have been a personal vendetta. That’s felonious and extremely dickish. I hope that the grand jury manages to come out of the endless investigation with some answers, and that whoever is found to be responsible is actually held responsible.

insert hilarious “gas” pun here

I don’t mean to be glib, but why am I supposed to be concerned by the increase in gas prices? McCain wants to get rid of the federal tax on gas for the summer, to keep the price down–does he not understand how economics works? All that does is shift the cost from gas buyers to everybody in the country. If we were talking about a public good, like, I dunno, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS, it might make sense to distribute the burden among all citizens. But gas is a pollutant the use of which we’re trying to cut down on. I, for one, welcome anything that encourages the conservation of such a limited (and harmful) resource–including high prices.
I know that there are lots of people out there who can’t afford gas as it is, and who will be seriously hurt by further increases in fuel prices. But in the long run, we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels–and obscuring the true cost of gasoline only exacerbates the problem.

Short version of the above:

Why should my tax dollars be used to subsidize the cost of your gasoline? Tell you what–if gas is so important to you, YOU pay for it. I’ll just keep investing my money in bus passes and my own two feet.