Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Saddam On Trial Part IV: Daughter Of A Whore

And the 2006 Award For Outstanding Achievement In The Field Of Personification goes to… Barzan Hassan!

Hassan, the half brother and co-defendant of Saddam Hussein, proclaimed Sunday that the trial itself was a “daughter of a whore.”

It’s hard to visualize that – perhaps it’s a cultural reference – but it certainly is creative wording. In fairness, though, no one can be held responsible for their parents' line of work.

The comment came during a spat with the trial’s new judge. Saddam and friends didn’t like the tough stance he took; the previous judge had let Saddam walk all over the court, then he quit.

Faced with the indignity of having to behave in court, Saddam and his defense team instead chose to take their toys and go home.

The oft-delayed trial resumes later this week. It’s unclear whether guest-of-honor Saddam will be able to lift himself out of his funk long enough to show up.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Democrats Self-Obstruct

Though several prominent Democrats are expected to join the John Kerry-led filibuster on Sam Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation, most agree they don’t have the numbers to succeed.

Some Democrats are saying more, though.

Barack Obama, Illinois Senator and future presidential candidate, says “procedural maneuvers” such as the filibuster are the “wrong way” of asserting the party’s agenda.

Barack, baby, when you’re the minority party, and the majority party is a radioactive runaway train, you’ve got to use what you’ve got to stop them. Should Democrats respect their party more for allowing Alito a smooth confirmation, or because they at least tried to stop it? I go with the latter.

In conceding that Alito will likely make the cut, Obama said, "…if we're going to oppose a nominee… we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake."

That sounds like election language, O. The president picked Alito, and we don’t get to vote him in, nor will we get to vote him out of he turns out to be the wolf in judge’s robes he’s purported to be.

Many prominent Democrats have warned that a Democratic filibuster will be used by Republicants to frame the former as “obstructionist.”

They absolutely will frame it that way, because that’s how they work. And their devoted Kool-Aid-drinking minions will buy every word of it. But those kind of people are already a lost cause to Democrats; I wouldn’t waste any time or energy on them.

When the 2006 elections roll around, Republicants will ratchet up their “obstructionist” rhetoric. I hope Democrats will not hesitate to counter with this White House’s own stonewalling on pre-Iraq war intelligence, Hurricane Katrina response efforts, Jack Abramoff, Plamegate, NSA and too much other crap to type.

When it comes time to do battle – in Congress or at the polls – we’ll be looking to Democratic leaders to step up to the plate, not just cede the “obstructionist” rhetoric to Republicants. Two can play at that game. It's time to suit up and get in there.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Year Of The Dog?

Today is Chinese New Year, a unique tradition that involves each year being named for one of 12 different animals; after the 12-year-cycle is complete, it starts all over again.

This is the Year of the Dog. Sadly, though, for many dogs, this isn’t going to be their year.

Across China, multitudes are celebrating their holiday by dining on man’s best friend. Dogs are a culinary staple in several Asian countries.

I’ve learned about the concept of cultural relativity, but I have to say “fuck that” here. I make no apologies for my views, Western or otherwise.

I’m not sure how dogs taste, but I know they’re pretty amazing animals.

Dogs can ensure blind people get across the street without being hit by a car. They can warn a person of an impending seizure. They help can find a bomb inside someone’s luggage before it gets on a plane. They work tirelessly to find survivors and bodies after disasters. They have an incredible range of emotions not unlike human children.

But perhaps the best thing about dogs is how they are the most non-judgmental friends a human can have. They give us the proverbial “unconditional love.” Ginger here did that for 13 years.

Don’t eat our friends. They deserve much, much better.

They Say That Jack’s A Bad Murtha… SHUT YO MOUTH! Talkin’ ‘Bout Jack!

Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Jack Murtha, a Vietnam vet who last November called for President Bush to immediately begin pulling US troops out of Iraq, now says the Iraq situation has degenerated into a civil war.

This essentially means that after we kicked Daddy Saddam out of his palaces back in 2003, we left the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, who have long-simmering conflicts, without the adult supervision (i.e. iron fist) that had kept them in check.

The insurgents, a lot of whom seem to be from outside Iraq, also noticed that the folks weren’t home next door in Iraq, and headed over with kegs – not of beer, but of gunpowder.

Domestic disagreements and opportunistic neighbors were just a few of the Bush War Team’s serious misunderestimations about what we could expect in Iraq. And they’re the primary reason our presence there has fomented terrorism rather than stifled it.

Some key questions now are:

Will Bush admit to himself and the world that Iraq is a serious mess that won’t easily be cleaned up?

Will Busheroos quit trying to Swiftboat Murtha?

How soon will the US be able to get Iraqi military, police and other security personnel to a self-sufficient state, so we can start bringing our people home?

And, perhaps the most important question – 100 years from now, will there be annual meetings of an Iraqi Civil War Re-enactors Society? Or will their civil war still be raging?

Friday, January 27, 2006

They Call Me Mr. Bogs

Clarity, it’s what I provide
When Bogs in the house the truth can’t hide
The world’s a sewer, I see right through it
Dark as Guinness, but that don’t make me quit
Because the G give me strength
Some people afraid of the dark
But I take it by the pintful
Knocking back G’s like they Popeye’s spinach
And elucidating to y’all at length
Like I’m Dennis Kucinich

I run with the crew called Los Liberales
We against hate and abortion in alleys
Have no love for hypocrites or homophobes
They was born with no frontal lobes
Trying to better me with they beliefs
My shot of truth hits them like a fist in the teeth
And they be dropping like panties at spring break, yo
My wisdom too potent for lightweights to take

Some punk-ass bloggers wanna diss and berate me
Let ‘em try – shit, they can fellate me
With practiced precision I halt their derision
My words slice like a guillotine
As I pour the foam from a 20 onto the curb
They heads roll, quick and clean
And I exclaim, while gaping jaws watch,
“Get a Got-damn dictionary, beyotch!”


Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Bible Goes Public

Public schools in several states, including some traditionally “blue” ones, are now adding Bible classes to their curricula.

I wholeheartedly support the endeavor. Seriously.

Schools are about educating kids. The Bible falls within the “realm of knowledge,” i.e. it's yet another thing for them to learn about.

As is unfiltered, objective sex education, for example.


Public school Bible classes are electives, and must remain that way if the schools are going to maintain church-state separation.

Further, the classes must not be taken as license for students or teachers to go around trying to convert or witness to others at their school.

And additional courses along similar lines, e.g. the Talmud or Quran, should in all fairness be considered.

Though I have written vociferously against prayer in public schools, this is different. It’s a class, not a conformation exercise that students are required to participate in en masse, like morning prayers or the Pledge of Allegiance.

Nor does my support for Bible classes contradict my rejection of the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes (here, here and here). ID isn’t science and doesn’t belong in any science class. If you want to have an “unsupportable theories” class, however, have at it.

By allowing Bible classes in public schools, we’ll steal some of the divine thunder of the “Christianity is under attack in America” crowd. It may be just what we need to derail their self-pitying, self-serving crusade and pacify them for a little while.

Survivor: State Penitentiary

Richard Hatch - the naked gay guy from Survivor, not Capt. Apollo from the original Battlestar Galactica - may be going from the big prize to the big house.

Apparently Hatch didn’t pay taxes on his $1 million prize from Survivor, or for a radio host gig he had, or for a rental property he owned.

No doubt the survival skills he honed on Survivor - eating disgusting food and forming alliances - will serve him well in the joint.

Maybe Hatch can share a cell with Jack Abramoff, another greedy schmuck.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Foreigners Taking US Torturers’ Jobs

It’s no longer just customer service and manufacturing jobs that are being sent overseas.

In a brutal blow to thousands of honest, hardworking American torturers, the country they love so dearly is farming out their vocation.

Results of a European investigation today confirmed that the US is outsourcing torture to numerous countries.

That leaves US torturers, who because of their “specialized” qualifications are often severely limited in their choice of jobs within the US, to go on the dole.

Expect to see an increased number of people on street corners bearing signs that read “Will Hurt For Food” and “Heartless, Hungry, Plese (sic) Help.”

It’s painful, I know, but there’s no easy solution to the outsourcing dilemma.

The hemorrhaging of good torture jobs to other countries will continue as long as there is a demand for the craft, and some Afghani is willing to do it for $0.35 a day.

Canada In Reverse

Canada is officially the Great Red North. Yesterday our cousins to the north elected Conservative Stephen Harper as their new Prime Minister.

Could the end of gay marriage, abortion and legal marijuana be far off for the Provinces?

That remains to be seen. But what’s clear is the Conservative government was brought to power after years of corruption scandals within the reigning Liberal government.

It should be noted that the Conservative party is still a minority within the House of Commons, and so has not fully taken over the country’s political agenda. In Yankee terms, the new president of Canada is a Republicant, but the Congress is still controlled by Democrats.

This situation is worth looking at, because it may be an indication of what’s going to happen in US politics in ’06 and ’08.

Americans are sick of the culture of corruption that has sprouted and flourished under our greedy, gun- and God-obsessed, consternative Republicant government.

Our Legislative and/or Executive may flip parties in one of the next two election cycles, leaving us with a situation similar to Canada’s – only in reverse.

It’s also likely that the Supreme Court, which has been middling-conservative in recent times, will jump to the right after the impending confirmation of Sam Alito. This would have an interesting side effect, however.

With ultra-consternatives running the Supreme Court, moderate Americans will begin to understand how important it is to have legislators on their side. A consternative Supreme Court, while ostensibly a consternative victory, may result in another shift of American political tectonics.

Most Americans value civil rights, reproductive rights, clean air and water and other ideals too much to let them go easily. The only way for us to temper a radical Supreme Court will be to elect a reasonable Congress. I’ll take it!

But I’d still rather not have that memory-impaired atavist Alito on the Big Bench.

Monday, January 23, 2006

If It Ain’t In The Contract…

Bush continued his PR campaign in defense of illegal wiretaps today before an adoring crowd in Kansas.

Why does he keep talking to people who don’t need to be convinced?

During his appearance Bush continued to make the argument that the post-9/11 authorization of military action Congress gave him was actually his license to do whatever he sees fit in the War on Terra.

“Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics," said the president.

Congresspersons from both parties agree that illegal wiretaps were not exactly what they had in mind when they authorized military action, though.

It’s disconcerting to realize that, for the last four years, our Executive and Legislative branches have been on completely different pages of the war playbook. Whew!

More disconcerting is that, with Bush’s specious reasoning, he can do anything he wants. And that’s just the way he likes it.

If Bush decided that, because we are at war, the press and other critical voices – who many say have emboldened terrorists – will be temporarily limited in what they can say, that’d be a logical extension of his wiretap argument. And a legal one, in his view.

Curtailing free speech was never specified in the authorization, but neither are many of the other powers Bush is now claiming. That includes the one that took us from military force to legal surveillance of terrorists to illegal surveillance of Quakers.

The fact that an American president would even try to interpret Congressional approval so broadly is a bad sign; it’s the same kind of rationale dictators use every day.

We need to look at Congress’ war authorization like a legal contract. Things that are “implied” in agreements – not spelled out specifically – don’t hold a lot of weight in court. That’s typically in the fine print, if course.

Let’s say you hire a contractor to refurbish your bathroom. Not only does he give you the Jacuzzi tub you wanted, he also installs a new A/C unit, builds a Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound System into your living room walls and puts crown molding in your master bedroom.

And he expects you to pay for every bit of it.

All this extra stuff was nowhere in the contract, but the contractor believes the bathroom thing was just part of an overall home refurbishment plan you had authorized him to undertake for the comfort and enjoyment of your family.

You should always take a good look at a contractor before you hire him. You dare only trust a reputable one.

Summer School: Not Just For Slackers Anymore

Growing up in the North, I got accustomed to going back to school in September each year.

When I moved to Florida, I had to adjust to the fact that school started at the end of August.

But over the years that start date has crept forward, and now kids here are unzipping their pencil cases the first week of August.

Even taking into account that there are no true, distinct seasons here, that means Florida kids are going back to school with a full month of summer, as it’s generally understood, left on the calendar.

And that’s not cool.

Summer breaks seem to be going through a trend that evening news shows started a few years ago. Six o’clock? Not early enough! Let’s start at five o’clock, before working people are even home. Or, maybe four o’clock, so we can get in another hour of human interest filler.

School years are gradually growing longer, too, putting a squeeze on summer plans for many.

Summers during my schooldays meant three full months of loafing. All night TV (without cable or a VCR). Getting up past noon and spending the day in the pool with my golden retriever.

Now that I’m out of school and working for a living, I crave those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. I wouldn’t want to deny anyone else the chance to goof off before having to buckle down year-round.

So it heartens me to see some “old school” folks like Florida Governor Jeb “My Bilingualism Makes Up For My Brother, Who Never Learned To Speak One Language Correctly” Bush, who’d like to see prayer and uniforms back in public schools, support a post-Labor Day start date.

Other backward states are also considering pushing school start dates forward.

It’s time for a return to the good old days of American tradition – when only band kids, slackers and miscreants were in school during summertime.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

American Integrity In Arrears

An open plea to public servants: If you’ve got any professional integrity or conviction, don’t wait until you’ve retired to demonstrate it. Use it. Flaunt it!

On Thursday 22 retired US military officials signed a document stating that Senator John McCain is right and President Bush is wrong about torture. No surprise there: One went through torture and the other has been putting us through it for five years.

Why aren’t current military officials, i.e. the ones who still have some pull, standing up and saying this?

I’m not naïve. I know that as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, Bush can have a towel party ordered on any military official at any time. Whistleblowers and dissenters aren’t generally looked upon with favor.

But here’s the problem:

Our government will never have adequate checks and balances if officials aren’t willing to stand up for what’s right now rather than later.

Oversight is a funny word; one definition of it is “supervision,” while another is “a failure to notice.”

Earlier this week one Democratic and five Republicant former heads of the EPA took Bush to task for not doing enough to combat global warming and other environmental disasters-in-the-making.

Stephen Johnson, current head of the EPA, where are you? Oh, that’s right – buried deep in the pocket of George W. Bush.

James Webb, secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, has attacked right wing critics of Democratic Representative John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran who has called for Bush to pull out of Iraq immediately.

Current military brass? Missing in action in the bowels of the Pentagon.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell knew the “evidence” of Iraqi WMDs he presented was false, even as he showed it to the world. He’s since expressed regret, and his former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, has exposed a “cabal” within Bush’s cabinet that was tasked with cooking up rationale for an Iraq invasion.

This stuff is a lot of help now, fellas!

Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? Bush’s loyal lapdog, hence, a lost cause.

And these are just a few recent examples! This has been standard operating procedure in the US for far too long.

It's unfortunate that some people only find the strength of their convictions once they're out of government or military service. While their candor is always appreciated, they’re powerless to offer anything of value now but criticism.






Friday, January 20, 2006

Bin Laden Raises White Flag; US Raises Middle Finger In Response

In his first statement since the 2004 US elections, terrorist-on-the-lam Osama bin Laden (hereafter, OBL) yesterday spoke of plans for new attacks on the US. At the same time, he offered an ostensible “truce” on hostilities, though with no specific terms.

Although a truce has already been ruled out by the US, a copy of OBL’s truce terms has been leaked to BogsBlog, and is presented here in its entirety. The translation is sketchy in some places, though “Great Satan” obviously refers to the US.

We, the Soldiers of (no translation), hereby agree to temporarily cease all hostilities against the Great Satan, provided the Great Satan responds in kind. The Great Satan must also meet all of these requirements in full:

-The Great Satan will officially and permanently change its name to “The Great Satan.”

-The Great Satan will continue to pursue its Taliban-like agenda of creating a faith-based, misogynistic government.

-The Great Satan will rebuild OBL’s Tora-Bora mountain vacation home, which was destroyed by US bombing in 2001.

-The Great Satan will hand Jessica Alba over immediately, so we may (translation unclear, possibly “convert”) her.

-The Great Satan will convert Lower Michigan into a permanent Palestinian state, with its capital designated as Ann Arbor.

-The Great Satan will compensate OBL every time its evil media uses his blessed image.

-The Great Satan’s leader George W. Bush will retain his close ties with Saudi Arabia, home country of OBL and many Al Qaeda freedom fighters.

-The Great Satan will cancel plans to rename (popular Middle Eastern dishes) hummus as “liberty spread” and falafel as “freedom balls.”

-The Great Satan will take lucrative Middle Eastern business contracts away from Halliburton and give them to the newly incorporated Osamaburton.

-The Great Satan will hand over Clay Aiken to face divine punishment. That guy’s just creepy.

There were other terms which were more difficult to have translated, so rather than publish them incorrectly we decided to set them aside for now. Updated information will be posted if and when it becomes available.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ethic Cleansing

The Jack Abramoff/lobbyist scandals have Congressional Republicants and Democrats scrambling to clean up their act. Or to at least present the appearance of sincere efforts at reform.

Both sides need to remember that, if newly created and/or enforced lobbyist rules are sans teeth, they’re going to be as worthless as those that allowed us to get where we are now. In a few years we’ll be right back at Scramble Central.

The most favorable option would be to ban the practice altogether – at least, as it exists today. It’s doubtful lobbyists will ever go away, though, while there are so many goodies to spread around.
But there are compelling reasons to make significant changes in how lobbists earn their paychecks.

Average folks don’t and never will have the pocketbooks to compete with lobbyists for lawmakers’ attention.

Average lawmakers apparently don’t have the fortitude to resist lobbyists’ lure, and readily put their influence up for sale. This often means proposing or amending bills to benefit the lobbyists’ clients – the pharmaceuticals industry, healthcare giants, energy, etc.

Republicants this week suggested a ban on accepting gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists, but only under certain circumstances. Meaning, there’s still a way around the rules.

Small gifts, such as tchotchkes, and other goodies valued at $20 or less would be permitted under this ban.

But that has at least one prominent Republicant perturbed. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott called some of his party’s proposed reforms "outrageous."

Protested Lott, "…now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks. Where you going to, to McDonalds?"

Hey Trent, how about taking some of that Congressional salary of yours and buying your own goddamn lunch for a change?

In a startling proposal that’s sure to be shot down, the GOP also mooted rescinding the pension of any lawmaker convicted of a crime related to their office.

Both parties are suggesting the “cooling off” period former lawmakers and their associates must observe before heading back to Congress as a lobbyist be doubled – from one year to two.

Two years is an inconsequential delay when most of your best buddies will probably still be in office after that time. Indeed, some remain there for decades. How about a minimum of five years? Ten?

To stem the culture of corruption, Democrats included a ban on lobbyist gifts of any value in their counteroffer. But, sadly, their plan allows convicted lawmakers to keep their pensions.

It’s notable that, while party leaders are making proposals, the Senate Ethics Committee remains strangely AWOL during the biggest ethics scandal to hit US politics in ages.

There is a legitimate purpose for “advocates” in the Congress. A person who lost a loved one in a car accident and wants to push for higher auto safety standards is a hypothetical example.

These advocates, or whatever we want to call them, should be permitted to interact with lawmakers. However, they should be required to personally visit a Congressperson in his or her office, and during normal business hours. This would virtually eliminate the possibility of any nice dinners (I suppose they could order in), skybox tickets or golf trips changing hands.

What if lobbyists who are former lawmakers want to go on a golf outing or hunting trip with elected officials who may be their closest friends? Fine, but the lawmakers should have to recuse themselves from any involvement in legislation benefiting a lobbyist’s client. That would mean no more earmarking, and no more pressing their colleagues for favorable votes!

Until we instate powerful, binding ethics rules like these in Congress – and elect politicians with integrity – we’ll continue seeing our legislators franticly trying to pull up their pants as their parents are coming in the door.





Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Specter Of Impeachment

Over the weekend, Pennsylvania Republicant Senator Arlen Specter spoke about President Bush’s NSA wiretapping on ABC’s “This Week.”

Specter, who just wrapped up Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings with the Senate Judiciary Committee, plans to next turn that body’s attention to the wiretap issue.

When asked by host George Stephanopoulos what remedies were available in the event the president’s wiretaps are found to be illegal, the first example out of Specter’s mouth, notably, was impeachment.

Specter, a moderate Republicant, has been one of Bush’s harshest critics on the NSA spying issue, and has aggressively pursued hearings on the matter.

Yet, even as he talked in such strong language about the seriousness of domestic spying, he gave the president a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

“I don't think anyone doubts the president is making a good-faith effort,” Specter said. “He's acting in a way that he feels he must."

If it comes down to legal proceedings, it’s uncertain what consideration such an argument would be given.

For example, there have been cases in which an elderly person “murdered” his or her spouse, who was terminally ill and in constant pain. In some instances, the deceased had even asked their spouse to end their suffering.

While there are undoubtedly people with selfish motives, often the “killer” in these instances is acting out of love, and of their belief about what’s best for their loved one.

Courts have been dubious of these claims, though, and prosecutors have not been shy about convicting the widow/widower.

Specter is a smart, reasonable man who knows what’s right. He knows the president broke the law, and that the appropriate penalty is impeachment.

Specter understandably doesn’t want to be ostracized by his party for being the guy who brought the boss down.

But principle should always come before politics. Now’s not the time for Specter, who has broken with his party on many an issue, to compromise his integrity.


Gonzo Dodges And Dances

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” Monday to defend the president’s policy of carrying out illegal wiretaps through the NSA.

"We need to know who the enemy is,” Gonzales said. “We need to know what the enemy is thinking. We need to know where the enemy is thinking about striking us again."

Even the staunchest liberals aren’t questioning the need to identify terrorists in order to keep this country safe, Gonzo.

The key questions, which still have not been directly addressed by Bush or any of his spokespeople, are:

Why go around the law when there’s a quick and legal way to perform a wiretap?

The “need for speed” argument doesn’t retain water, as permission can be obtained from the FISA court up to 72 hours after the tap.

And this one:

Why listen in on vegans, Quakers and other anti-war groups?

These taps nullify the stated justification that these wiretaps were done in a “limited” manner.

Expect these questions to remain unanswered, even through upcoming hearings on the matter, at which Gonzales will be testifying.

In fact, expect Gonzales to leave most of the questions put to him unanswered by the conclusion of those hearings, which he and his boss no doubt see as a formality.

Gonzales is likely to say that “national security concerns” prevent him from answering anything but the most inane questions, such as, “Would you state your name for the record, sir?”


Friday, January 13, 2006

Heckuva Testimonial

Well if don’t we have just the most down-home, regular guy, “Aww, shucks!” president.

Visiting New Orleans yesterday for the first time in three months, Bush gave the town a heckuva testimonial:

“It's a heck of a place to bring your family. It's a great place to find some of the greatest food in the world and it's a heck of a lot of fun.”

I imagine the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce is pretty gosh-darn grateful for the president’s ebullient praise.

Or perhaps not.

Bush may have made a heckuva faux pas using those particular words in the Crescent City. Remember, last year he infamously said incompetent FEMA head Michael “Brownie” Brown was doing “a heckuva job” with his response to Hurricane Katrina.

That verbal pat on the back simultaneously exemplified the cronyism that has tainted the highest levels of our government, and bolstered the opinion that Bush is oblivious to all the catastrophes besetting the country under his watch.

Some more quotes from Bush’s visit to New Orleans:

“They’ve got a place here called Pat O’Brien’s. Buy a drink, and you get to keep the glass. In other words, it’s a heckuva deal.”

“I was watching one of them Girls Gone Wild videos from Mardi Gras the other day when Laura was out shopping for (presidential Scottie dog) Barney. Man, these girls were showin’ their (expletive deleted) and (expletive deleted) for cheap plastic beads!

“I thought it was a heckuva party,” he continued. “Well, until I spotted the twins (Barbara and Jenna) in there.”


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Niceties Not Necessary

I’ve seen a few Supreme Court nomination hearings now, and there’s one aspect of them (apart from the Q-but-often-not-A) that frustrates me.

I’ll call it the “warm and fuzzy” aspect.

The first day of the Alito hearings is a great example.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee spent the entire first day making opening statements. These typically consist of each committee member touting the nominee’s impressive resume, reminiscing about prior professional interactions with them, and generally kissing ass.

The ranking members of each party should each make an opening statement, during which they can say anything they like. Then, down to business. No wasting an entire day as part of such an important process.

Some niceties provide an unnecessary distraction in the proceedings.

The Supreme Court nominee hearing is essentially a job interview. Why do nominees get to bring their families along?

True, most job interviews aren’t broadcast live on TV. But in this case, the employer is the American people.

Yesterday’s unfortunate incident of Mrs. Alito becoming emotional over a line of questioning from Republicant Senator Lindsey Graham could have been avoided had she not been sitting behind her husband for hours of tough questioning.

That incident also could have been avoided had Alito simply answered the question about his membership in CAP honestly instead of pulling an “Iran-Contra.” Alito’s assertion that he does not remember being a member of that organization, or why he might have been in it, is not credible.

Scratch that. It’s a goddamn lie, no question.

Interesting, some media outlets as well as politicos like Utah Republicant Senator Orrin Hatch have sought to blame the emotional incident on Democrats, even though it happened in response to a Republicant’s questioning.

Said Hatch: “She's sick and tired of the mistreatment of her husband.”

Another goddamn lie.

(There’s a scene in A Clockwork Orange in which a reformed Alex returns home to find his room occupied by a lodger called “Joe.” Not wanting to lose his room, Joe goes on and on about what a bad boy Alex was, and how he doesn’t deserve such good parents. As Alex’s mother begins to cry, Joe says, “Now look what you've gone and done to your mother.”)

When it comes to Supreme Court nominee hearings, we need to focus less on the niceties and more on getting to the truth.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito On The Wrack

Does anyone who worked for the Reagan Administration remember anything?

On Day 2 of his Supreme Court conformation hearings, Samuel Alito continued “wracking” his memory about when, how, why or if he may have been a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP).

What exactly was CAP concerned about? The group was formed to keep women and minorities out of that renowned college.

My suggestion for jarring Alito’s muddled memory is to have a CIA torture specialist from one of our secret prisons “rack” him until he remembers.

Or might that be considered a conflict of interest, since he could hear a case on the issue of torture in the future?

If Alito’s lying about his CAP membership, he doesn’t deserve to be confirmed. If he honestly can’t remember being part of that organization – one that he featured on his resume – for years, do we want a Supreme Court justice who’s that scatterbrained?

Stare, Stare Decisis

Dems saved the biggest, loudest fireworks for last during Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings yesterday.

New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer essentially tore Alito a new one.

Schumer wasted no time in going for Alito’s throat on a big-ticket issue. He asked Alito if the opinion he had in 1985 – that the right to have an abortion was not protected by the Constitution – is the same one he holds now.

Schumer asked this question no less than four times, his tone becoming increasingly stern with each, and each time Alito stated that he would have to consider stare (pronounced “starry”) decisis (precedent) if the issue came before him on the Supreme Court.

But that wasn’t the question Schumer was asking.

Schumer simply wanted to know whether Alito’s now opinion is the same as his then opinion. Alito would not answer.

Yet Alito had no problem in answering other questions related to the Constitution.

At one point Schumer criticized Alito for using “inapt” in an earlier answer, stating he knew of no such word. Schumer probably thought Alito meant to say “inept,” when in actuality inapt is a word, with a similar meaning.

When it became apparent Alito would not give any kind of substantive answer, Schumer finally gave in. But not before stating:

“I know you're not going to answer the question. I didn't expect really that you would, although I think it would be important that you would. I think it's part of your obligation to us that you do, particularly that you stated it once before so any idea that you're approaching this totally fresh without any inclination or bias goes by the way side.”

In refusing to answer, Alito is following precedent of another sort – one that’s being practiced daily in our Executive branch: Slinking through controversial issues by giving general answers that speak to the background of the issues but not the meat of them.

During Monday’s opening remarks for the hearings, Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl basically invited Alito to refuse to answer any question.

Alito may not have to answer the questions put to him, but if he is to be confirmed to the highest court in the land for life, he owes us the whole truth.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Grassley Loses His Head

"The price you pay for using 'liberal' as a negative is: I collect your fucking head." - Pete Bogs

During Sammy Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings today Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley used his Q&A time to bash liberals.

In his introductory statements Grassley spoke of current ethics complaints against Alito as “absurd” allegations by “left-wing liberal interest groups.”

One can draw by inference that Grassley thinks DeLay and Abramoff are swell guys getting a bum rap.

Grassley was referring to an issue, brought up earlier in the hearings by Senator Ted Kennedy, that years ago during confirmation hearings for a circuit court appointment Alito told the US Senate Judiciary Committee – the very body he appears before today – he would recuse himself from cases in which he had some kind of conflict of interest.

Alito’s words during the earlier hearings:

"I do not believe that conflicts of interest relating to my financial interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies, the brokerage firm of Smith Barney, or the First Federal Savings Loan of Rochester, New York."

Alito later heard a case regarding Vanguard, a company with which he holds mutual funds. Today he claimed that a dozen years between his statement and the case made him forget what he said.

Does Grassley not care about the facts? And does he not have a dictionary, so he can look up what “liberal” means?

Grassley has lost his head.


Soy Americano

Widespread, um, obesity among American youths has led many schools to ban soda machines from their property. Now some are also beginning to look at the foods they’re slopping onto students’ plates.

Not only are major restaurant chains – including some fast food burger joints – serving soy- or vegetable-based burgers and other vegetarian foods, some high schools are now going veggie.

The upshot is that school cafeterias can now stop pretending to serve “real” hamburgers and sell them for what they already are – soy-burgers.

At least, I always heard my high school’s burgers were made from soy. There was possibly some meat in them, but not of bovine derivation. (I now suspect the Bureau of Land Management were supplying schools with meat through their wild mustang culls.)

Seriously, if I were in high school, I’d compare the veggie burgers side by side with the fleshy ones. Maybe run them down to the biology lab, or something.

I wasn’t a vegetarian during high school, but I believe some of my classmates may have been. What did they have for lunch? Probably ketchup. It was a vegetable, according to our president.

Today kids have more choices when it comes to their lunch menu. With all the backwards steps being taken in high schools these days – public school uniforms, censorship of newspapers, etc. – at least a few of them are taking a few steps in the right direction.

Still, I’d watch what I said if I were a kid in the veggie lunch line. “Rabbit food” eaters have been under federal surveillance of late. In 2006 America, a meat-free diet is still considered too unconventional not to be suspect.



Monday, January 09, 2006

It’s 266 Days Until Yom Kippur, Jackie Boy

"You are a shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system." – Tom DeLay, referring without irony to CNMI labor practices

My knowledge of the tenets of Judaism is admittedly limited. But I’m quite sure “Seek to profit from the blood and toils of the vulnerable” isn’t one of them.

Jack Abramoff, whose close ties to the GOP may mean an end to their majority status later this year, was once a “nice Jewish boy” with modest goals:

- He wanted his own Orthodox Jewish school.
- He wanted to set up a West Bank sniper school.
- And he obviously wanted to be the most powerful and profitable lobbyist in US history, at any cost.

One of Jackie’s major lobbying efforts involved bilking Native American tribes out of millions in exchange for assisting them in their casino gambling initiatives. For letting him swindle them, Abramoff referred to the tribes as “monkeys” and “morons.”

True, casinos are often cash cows for their owners, and aren’t the most highly regarded of businesses. But gambling law exemptions are among the few concessions we’ve given to a people from which we’ve taken so much.

Jackie also lobbied for years on behalf of garment manufacturers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a US territory in the Pacific. The manufacturers wanted to be exempt from minimum wage and other US labor laws, and had the CNMI government’s backing – but not the US government’s.

In essence, they wanted to have their cake and eat it, too: Proudly display the “Made in USA” tag on their clothing to draw the “Buy American” crowd, while bypassing American labor laws.

Jackie tried to stear the Clinton Administration away from extending US labor laws into the CNMI, but Bill & Co. wouldn’t have any part of it. A more amenable regime took power in 2001, however, and Abramoff got his wish.

Garment factories in the CNMI are the proverbial sweatshops, staffed by Chinese immigrants who are confined to fenced camps during their off hours.

Some Asian women emigrate to the CNMI on the promise of work in garment factories, but end up being forced into prostitution once they arrive.

Taking just these facts into account, it’s obvious why people like Jackie and his hug-buddy Tom DeLay were so keen to accept money in exchange for helping the fine business and government officials of the CNMI.

Like all crooks who are sorry they were caught, Jackie has begun playing the religion card to show what a decent and genuinely remorseful man he is. In a Washington, DC court to plead guilty to three charges last week, he wore garb typically associated with Orthodox Jews, and spoke of seeking God’s forgiveness.

His attempts at portraying himself as the “nice Jewish boy” are not only a transparent ploy to repair his image, but an insult to Jews who actually follow their faith’s tenets. (As a goy, I’m making an educated guess on the latter, but I’m sure I’m right.)

If Jackie wants to continue to play the part of the good, God-fearing boychik, it’s his choice. But I’d like to make this suggestion: Though Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is still a long way off, he ought to get a head start.



Friday, January 06, 2006

“Gee, I Wish We Had One Of Them Doomsday Machines!”

This country is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it, Mr. President. Your administration can serve no further purpose. Goodbye." – GOP 9000 ruling

One thing has become all too clear after recent revelations about our dear leader: No matter what you’ve done, you can hold onto power if you simply obstruct all attempts to bring you to justice, and if your party co-conspirators (aka Congressmen) have your back.

It must be liberating to have the majority party behind you, as Bush does. He’s taken it as carte blanche to perform all manner of illegal or immoral acts; his party provides impunity.

Regarding the issues of Downing Street Minutes (proof Bush lied to Congress about Iraq), NSA’s illegal wiretaps (a crime to which he boastfully admitted) and other impeachable offenses, Bush has simply had his spokesperson and hench-people refuse to say anything of substance.

He’s also attempted to block the formation of investigatory committees, refused to testify before them, refused to provide requested documents and in general refused to cooperate in any manner.

Pennsylvania Republicant Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has promised to look into the NSA wiretaps, but only a handful of his party mates (i.e. not enough to successfully vote for censure or impeachment) are supporting him.

Bush buddy Pat Roberts (not to be confused with foreign leaders’ bane and death-wisher, Pat Robertson), is in charge of investigating the administration’s pre-Iraq intelligence failures. His report is long overdue, and he’s still in no hurry to produce it.

Many who howled for Bill Clinton’s blood over a lie about sex are now sadly mute about Bush’s lies about war and illegal surveillance.

Some are talking, but all that’s coming out of their mouths are hackneyed, though remarkably consistent talking points.

On Downing Street, the NSA and others, the response is invariable: “President Bush is doing what’s necessary to protect the country from terrorist killers. Those who question him are helping the terrorists and demoralizing our troops.”

If Bush can avoid consequences simply by refusing to cooperate or by having cohorts circle the wagons around him, he’s no longer a president – he’s a dictator. And based on his attitude toward torture, a brutal one at that. (I seem to remember Bush calling some other world leader a brutal dictator. Oh yes – Saddam Hussein!)

My suggestion for dealing with Executive malfeasance is to develop a process or device that takes choice out of human hands completely. Something that can’t be influenced by politics and has no particular interest in the matter.

I’m thinking along the lines of Dr. Strangelove’s Doomsday Machine, in statutory form. As you may recall, that machine which would automatically launch a nuclear counterattack and was impervious to any attempts to stop it.

We need to develop something that enables evidence to be collected and a binding verdict rendered against a rogue president whether anyone likes it or not. Since it would undoubtedly be computer-based, and considering the corrupt state of our current majority party, I suggest we call it “GOP 9000.”

Ok, ok, I’m mixing together my Kubrick references. I can’t help it that he had so damn many good ideas!

Now, I’m not saying I’ve figured out how GOP 9000 would work, mind you. I’m just an ideas man; a visionary. I’m a creative writer, not a technical writer. Plus I’d need more time to think about it.

What I do know is GOP 9000 would make the nuke-u-ler option look like a firecracker. But it’s the only way to ensure the integrity of our top branch of government, and the only remedy for our seemingly powerless citizenry against a crooked leader.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

70s Flashback: Barbarino Advocated Torture

With all the claims of secret torture prisons, and some not-so-secret ones alike Abu Ghraib, dogging the Bush White House, it’s important to keep the issue of torture in a historical perspective.

Vinnie Barbarino, that lovable 1970s icon and half-witted student of Brooklyn high school teacher Gabe Kotter, openly advocated torture on numerous occasions.

For example, when embroiled in a disagreement with a fellow student, Barbarino would often retort:

“Up your nose with a rubber hose!”

Another common Barbarino jibe was:

“In your ear with a can of beer!”

It should be noted that, unlike Bush, Barbarino suffered no loss of popularity as a result of his views; on the contrary, they seemed to endear him to the American public.

Some of Barbarino’s lesser-known calls for torture include:

“Through your sack with a sharpened tack!”

“In your eye with a pound of lye!”

“On your tongue with a piece of dung!”

The CIA was apparently watching Barbarino way back when, and even adapted some of his methods for use in their interrogations. To this day these techniques are referred to as “Barbarinoan.”

But the support of torture isn’t the only predilection that links Bush and Barbarino.

When confronted with a question he did not want to answer, or could not answer, Barbarino would typically say:

“What? Where? When?"

Bush says much the same thing in different words in most of his press conferences.

And Barbarino also said aloud what Bush must surely be thinking most of the time:

“I’m so confused!”

Before anyone criticizes Bush’s tactics in the War on Terra, they ought to take another look at their beloved 70’s sitcom star.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Roberts Raises An Important Issue

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts thinks federal judges deserve more money, and in a year-end 2005 report urged Congress to give them a raise.

Roberts’ concern is that many judges are leaving the bench and qualified lawyers are staying away from the bench because the pay isn’t competitive with private law practice.

Stated Roberts, "If Congress gave judges a raise of 30 percent tomorrow, judges would – after adjusting for inflation – be making about what judges made in 1969. This is not fair to our nation's federal judges and should not be allowed to continue."

Mind you, Roberts is asking this of the same Congress that continues to vote itself pay raises while steadfastly refusing to raise the federal minimum wage above its 1997 level of $5.15 per hour.

For a 40-hour work week, $5.15 per hour translates to about $10,712.00 per year. That’s right around poverty level in most states.

Members of Congress, meanwhile, typically earn a minimum of $158,100 per year.

And those long-suffering federal judges in their tattered robes make upwards of $160,000 per year.

Before Congress gives federal judges, themselves or any six-figure salaried officials another cent, they should first give the ordinary $10 grand-a-year guy a pay increase.

Using Roberts’ “then vs. now” example, Congress could simply compare the difference in the price of gas between 1997 and today to see that those poverty level workers have actually taken a pay cut.

As for Roberts’ rationale that a salary increase is necessary to keep good judges on the bench, I humbly (and futilely) suggest that no one go into public service for the money.

Too many people pursue public office to line their pockets, and that’s why lobbyist scandals involving Congress will keep myself, the rest of the blogosphere and the mainstream media typing away throughout 2006.