Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas cheer

A Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday there is enough evidence to put a man on trial for allegedly robbing "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis and forcing him to partially disrobe and pose for a demeaning videotape.

Francis, creator of the video business that features young women baring their breasts, testified during the pretrial hearing that he was "scared to death" in January 2004 when a gun-wielding man broke into his Bel-Air mansion.
Francis testified Monday that Riley broke into his home, pulled a gun on him and videotaped him, on his bed with his pants down, making sexually humiliating comments about himself. He then threatened to distribute the video unless Francis paid him $300,000 to $500,000, Francis said.

Police learned of the alleged crime from socialite Paris Hilton, Francis' former girlfriend, who said she heard the incident discussed at a party.

Now that's karma.

And this song of mine, in three-quarter time

So the tradition of my blogs (and a long-standing tradition it is) is that on or about Christmas Eve, I take a minute to talk about some of my favorite Christmas songs, before moving on to What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown.

First, forever and always, there is "Fairytale Of New York" by the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl. It's been five years since Kirsty was wrongfully taken from us, and her angel's voice still hits me like no other. Some deaths just strike you as fundementally WRONG, and it cannot be that the sun ever shines on a world without Kirsty in it.

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams
From me when I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

God, how she shimmered. She's one of those people who when I'm going down and I can't see...well, it's her voice, that's all. Her beautiful fucking shining voice that brings a tear to my eye and leaves me weak in the knees.

Then there's "The Christmas Waltz," as recorded by Frank Sinatra the second time as a single for Capitol records. It shouldn't necessarily work-it's not the most inspired lyric anybody ever wrote,

It's that time of year
When the world fall in love
Ev'ry song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas, May Your New Year
Dreams Come True"

and it's got a freaking choral group on it-but it's haunting (in a good way). And as the last chorus fades out, Frank says "Merry Christmas," and he sounds...innocent. I'm quite sure (from my reading) that innocence had passed him by a long long time ago, but in that moment, on that record, I believe it. Wishing you and yours the same thing too, Frank.

The Charlie Brown Christmas musical soundtrack is a must, of course. What it always captures for me is the melancholy of the holiday. I'm convinced that one of the reasons so many of us took Charlie Brown & the other characters to our hearts isn't just that they were funny or Snoopy was cute. It's because, at a time when some people might have been scared to (some still are), Charlie Brown was saying things like
"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel."

It literally was "the good grief." Plus, it's an obvious thing to say, but I seriously love Vince Guaraldi's piano playing.

Continuing along our merry way, we come to "She Won't Be Home" by Erasure. A minor, but underrated classic. I still love the way the lines "I wanted to say to you how much I need to be with you," repeated in the chorus into the fade, start to sound, unintentionally, like "I wanted to say to you how much I need to scream with you."

And speaking of a scream (The American Scream):
"You...hate Christmas?"
"I detest it. It's horrible, it's fascist. It excludes the lonely, the outcast, the ugly. All Christmases do, whether they're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu...all the ceremonies are for members only. They make the rest of us so miserable."

~Shade #19

After the Hellfire-and-brimstone anger of the last post, I need something that just tries to make the whole world smile

Credit: firedoglake.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Bush; damn you to hell

Update-From Desmond Tutu [in Newsweek via AmericaBlog]:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Anglican leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his principled fight for justice in his native country. "It's unbelievable," he told me in an interview, "that a country that many of us have looked to as the bastion of true freedom could now have eroded so many of the liberties we believed were upheld almost religiously."

Tutu recalled teaching in Jacksonville, Fla., when Bush won re-election in 2004. "I was shocked," he said, "because I had naively believed all these many years that Americans genuinely believed in freedom of speech. [But I] discovered there that when you made an utterance that was remotely contrary to what the White House was saying, then they attacked you. For a South African the déjà vu was frightening.

There are moments, I tell you most seriously, when I could almost cry. They pass, and I never do (not about this)...but there are moments. Look what you've done, those of you who ever...ever thought George W. Bush could be a leader.

Feelin' good now, are ya? Feelin' great that you avoided voting for the wimpy nerds in 2000 and 2004? That's nice.

The business magazine Barron's has published an editorial. Barron's is known among "civilians," well-known in the business community, their word carries some weight, and they're not thought to be particuarly liberal.

Politics is politics, and power is power, and money is money...but there are still, apparently, some people in the business community who are made queasy by the thought of their president willfully disregarding the law. Let me put that another way: Big business may be turning against Bush.

And they want Congress to either change the law so he wasn't-or they want him impeached. Given Bush's ratings in the high 30s, and Congresses even lower, what do you think they're going to do?

And again, if there are any conservatives looking in, no, I'm not enjoying this. Not enjoying this at all. It's a farce of the darkest comedy that two of our presidents in a row should face impeachment.

But frankly, those of us who voted for Kerry (and opposed your ridiculous impeachment of Clinton on a nonsense issue) tried very hard to spare the country this. Pleasant dreams tonight to the rest of you, who voted for a criminal, and put personal dislike above the good of the country or even competence.

Sleep tight.

Via MyDD

Friday, December 23, 2005

Okay, let's get down to it, boppers...Riffs!

So I finally got round to watching "The Warriors," in the new DVD version. I gather that more than a few fans are annoyed by some of the deviations from the original version of the film. Not having seen it, I can't speak to that. I somehow missed it when it was first released (maybe because I was eight) and never caught it on subsequent cable showings or on video till now.

But even though I'd never seen it before, lines from it have become so iconic that it's almost like "deja vu all over again." One of my favorite bands, Pop Will Eat Itself, took a title, hook, and key samples for one of their greatest singles, "Can U Dig It?" wholesale from this film. And on MST3K, Tom Servo was not averse to throwing in a little "Waarrioors...come out to plaa-aaaay!" where appropriate.

First and probably foremost, it's a great-looking movie. Director Walter Hill says many times, in one of the better documentary-retrospectives I've seen on a DVD, that he was going for a "comic book" look.

Whenever I hear this I cringe a little inside, because I fear it's going to be used to excuse a lack of depth, clever plotting, and characterization, but as presented here it plays well. This is not to say that "The Warriors" has depth, clever plotting, and characterization (it's kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of picture).

But it's pitch-perfect in evoking the Marvel comic books of the '70s. I read a review on Amazon where someone described the performances as "wooden yet overwrought," which in this film's context is appropriate, and not the backhanded complement it may appear.

Comic book heroes and heroines don't have to be wholly believable...just enough so that we'll suspend our disbelief at the rest. And that's what the cast of this movie is. Real enough...but not too real.

If they weren't real enough, it'd be hard to get caught up in their momentum (and this film is nothing if not breathless pace), because we wouldn't care at all. But if they were too real, they'd be jarringly out-of-place in what Harlan Ellison called, probably rightly, " astonishing excercise in surrealism masquerading as a gang rumble flick."

Many clips from the film (especially in the fight scenes) already look like they could be made into comic book panels-and it probably wasn't necessary to "gild the lily" in this new cut. This is done by including periodic scene transitions where the action freezes, is converted to comic-style drawing, we move along a few "panels" to a new, drawn scene before returning to live action.

For me, this was annoying but not lethal, based on what I read it seems to be one of the things that annoys fans of the old version most.

The film is let down for me only by probably-too-PC-for-my-own-good qualms about the race elements, and an unsatisfying payoff, which I won't give away for those of you who haven’t seen either version.

Other that that, it's nearly excellent. Killer, and now retro, synth-rock score, too; sounded like a mix between Queen's score for "Flash Gordon"-their best work and I won't hear otherwise-and early OMD.

I think I'll do a meme

Via The Adventures of the Smart Patrol:

Seven Things to do Before I Die:

Go to Ireland.
Get the Keitha/Annabel/Colley story published or produced in some form, or else get them out of my head.
Stop being neurotic about being smart.
Get paid and keep getting paid for writing.
Own a new car.
Stop caring about politics cause it's so clear it doesn't care about me.
Go deep-sea diving.

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

Not make a joke when it's just crying out to be made
Give up sugar
Watch the new Battlestar Galactica
Understand why Paris Hilton doesn't just become a porn star and be done with it
Not look when a woman in a low-cut blouse leans over
Not feel sympathy for Courtney Love, god knows why
Be happy away from California (apparently)

Seven Things That Attract Me to... Blogging:

The instant gratification of one-click publishing
It's a way of keeping my friends up to date on what I'm thinking about
The way it's attracted a small circle of regular readers and commenters (mostly women, for some reason, but I'm not complaining)
It puts my name out there where the darndest people find it (remind me to tell you about how I was threatened by Amy Ephron)
It keeps me well informed
It's a way of keeping my hand in as a writer when I'm between major projects
It cures isolation.

Seven Things I Say Most Often

"What up"
"Duck-humping, homophobic, rock-stupid, anti-sex, illiterate hillbilly from the hated state of Tennessee."
"Is what I'm saying."
"Never piss off a writer"
"Not necessarily"

Seven Books that I Love

A Child Across the Sky (Jonathan Carrol)
I, Asimov
Asterix the Legionary
The Essential Ellison
The West Wing shooting script books
Joe Jackson's A Cure For Gravity

Seven Movies that I Watch Over and Over Again

All That Jazz
The Lord of The Rings
Finding Nemo
Almost any James Bond movie
Most Terry Gilliam movies

Any bloggers want to pick up the hat, it's up for grabs...

Baby, can you understand me now?

Julia has an entry about Saks recent successful "Shop With A Bunny day" promotion.
I don't understand this at all. Do these guys just like pretty women for ornamental effect? Do they go home and masturbate?

The following started out as a comment in Julia's blog, One Odd Goose, but it got a little long so I thought I'd just make a post of it here.

I was in a Tower Records a few years back, looking for the then-new issue of Playboy. It had a group-interview with the cast and key production personnel of The West Wing (see? I do read it for the articles).

It also happened to be the same issue as the "Girls of the Big 10" photo feature or something. A few of the girls were from nearby University of Washington Seattle and, I was informed, they would be arriving shortly for an autograph session. Did I want to wait? I did not.

I'm telling you all this because what I don't understand is the notion of getting someone's autograph because you've seen pictures of them naked. I mean, I understand getting a musican, or a writer, an actor or an artist's autograph. For me that's as much about having a moment to tell someone that their work means something to you as it is about the souvenir.

But what am I supposed to say to a woman whose slim hold on celebrity is based only upon her having a great body, when asking for her autograph?

"Hi. You really do have beautiful breasts. Sign this, please."

Also, it seems a tad embarassing to meet a woman when there's a tacit understanding between the two of you that you've masurbated to her.

"Yeah, I came like a skyrocket. Sign right here."

So like I say, I don't understand it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Those darned kids just start so early these days

Basic instinct?

Credit (or blame): Monkeys For Helping

Well, Merry Christmas

You Are Ugly Underwear!

Comfortable and soft, more people like you than let on.
But it's very difficult for you to show yourself in public.

Warren Rudman, master of understatement

Via AmericaBlog, the Wall Street Journal has a story about conservatives who are none-too-happy with Bush illegally spying upon Americans. For some reason. Mostly it's stuff you've seen before, but as with the Miers nomination, I take a certain grisly pleasure in watching the big snakes eat each other.

And I couldn't believe this line:
"It seems to me that if you're the president, you have to proceed with great caution when you do anything that flies in the face of the Constitution," said Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire who has served on a number of government intelligence advisory boards.

Yes, that would seem to follow.

Other prominent conservatives quoted or cited include George Will, Bob Barr, Arlen Specter, Chuck Hagel and John Sununu.

Oh, Canada

OTTAWA (AP) - Two Montreal clubs that cater to group sex do not breach standards of decency, Canada's Supreme Court has ruled. Wednesday's ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, said group sex among like-minded adults in private does not meet the test of indecency.

The decision might make it easier for "swinger" clubs or gay bath houses to operate without the threat of police intervention or arrest.

The ruling dealt with two Montreal cases in which swinger club operators were charged with keeping a bawdy house.

"Entry to the club and participation in the activities were voluntary. No one was forced to do anything or watch anything. No one was paid for sex," McLachlin wrote in reference to the Labaye case.

On AOL News.

Good tidings to our Canadian friends...not that they need it, apparently.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

10 best TV shows

OhNoTheyDidn't, winner of the Best Culture/Gossip Weblog Award, has a post today with their list of the 10 best TV shows of 2005. 80% of them are shows that I don't watch, so I've got nothing to say but it's okay.

Naturally, I agree with their swoon for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and honorable mention for "The Colbert Report." But they also get mad props from me for this little ode to "Veronica Mars"...

In addition, each episode contains its own mini-mystery, solved by Veronica with the help of her friends and her private investigator Dad. If that sounds too twee for words, it’s not — this show’s sensibility is much more “Rockford Files” than “Nancy Drew.” And for all the soap-opera-like drama, it’s the wit and humor of the characters that makes you care about them. Don’t worry about coming in late: While “Veronica Mars” is one of the best shows out there when it comes to continuity, new viewers will catch on pretty fast. You know how you never watched “Sports Night” or “Buffy” even when your friends kept telling you to? This is that show.

Then, unfortunately, things get nasty, as they get all nerdy about the inexplicably popular (to me) new "Battlestar Galactica."
Ron Moore and writers craft flawed characters and terse dialogue that give Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing”) a run for his money.

I'm sorry, no, I'm just not having that.

My own list, BTW, goes something like this, in no particularly signifigant order:

"Veronica Mars." Well-acted, smartly written, layered...but if I haven't badgered you into watching this show yet, I suppose I should give up. Not gonna, but I suppose I should.

"Boston Legal." Unbalanced in the very best of ways. Bill Sherman calls it "ultra-erratic," and I know what he means, but I love it in some ways not in spite of that but because of it, as you love a toy with the stuffing coming out of it.

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The "legitimate" press has allowed Edward R. Murrow's legacy to fall to a comic.

And "The Colbert Report" has definitely begun to find it's own way, with Colbert starting to sound more like a solo artist and less like a cover band.

"Supernatural." But in a weird way I couldn't tell you why. It's probably the show I watch that I'm least attached to...but I do keep watching...

"Everybody Hates Chris." Though I gotta admit, the laughs are getting thinner. May be in danger of falling into the "Yeah, it's funny, but I don't give a crap about the characters" trap.

"Gilmore Girls." Ah, my weekly breath of fresh air. Poppy in the way that your favorite poppy things are poppy.

"24." Any of you remember an SNL parody ad from the early '80s for Rubik's Grenade? As it sounds, this was a Rubik's Cube-like device in the shape of a grenade, and if you didn't solve it before the clock ran out ...KA-BOOM! Thus is "24."

"Doctor Who." Even if I didn't like the new series, I'd be thrilled that someone has managed to make this show a viable hit (in the UK), commercially and critically, again. But I do like it. I'll always resent Christopher Eccelston for having once been paid to lie naked upon an equally naked Kate Winslet, but he was teriffic in this. So was Billie Piper, which was more surprising-I only knew her as London's answer to Britney Spears...

"Huff." I'm keenly anticipating Season Two of this Showtime award-winner.

I don't even know what to say about this one

From QLG News at
Last week Lisa Myers of NBC News reported Pentagon investigators had records citing a February protest at New York University, with the law school's LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. The news report also uncovered surveillance of military-ban protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey during April.

In addition, a "don't ask, don't tell" protest at the University of California at Santa Cruz that featured a gay kiss-in was labeled by the Pentagon as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

(Keitha: You may not know what to say, but I have a few thoughts on the subject.)

(Annabel: Careful, sweetie, you'll fry his circuit boards.)

Ripley, believe it or not

A scene from arguably the best action/horror/sci-fi/thriller ever, starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley and Carrie Henn as 'Newt'.

And a picture of Groucho Marx standing to the left of a young lady named Raquel Welch...believe it or not.

Okay, I admit, the joke above is lame, but I just like both these photographs and wanted to find a way to include them. Plus I don't know about you, but it puts a smile on my face knowing that Groucho Marx was ever even around Raquel Welch.

Aliens pic via firedoglake, Groucho & Raquel pic via news from me.

The Democratic catch-and-release program

On MyDD, Matt Stoller has a good post asking (again) why not just powerful media figures, but Democratic party leaders, persist in enacting a charade. A charade that Bush is a strong, good man who loves his country and is well-liked.

None of those things are true. They are provably untrue. That is not my opinion, it is documentable fact. But go find a Democratic leader who will say so, and keep saying so, and say so loudly enough for anyone to hear, in simple, clear plain language.

This president has lived through scandals for which, if he were a Democrat, the GOP would have had him impeached, tarred and feathered, and run out-of-town on a rail. But we keep letting him go.

I find myself reviving a lot of things I wanted to say to or about the Democrats last year today. Now I'm remembering that when I thought about the one piece of advice I wish I could have given John Kerry, it was this. What Spencer Tracy famously said was the secret of good acting: Just stand on the balls of your feet and tell the truth.

BTW, should we nominate another John Kerry in 2008, I'll be able to tell Spencer Tracy how much I like that quote myself-because I'm putting a shotgun in my mouth.

Here's Matt.

Powerful actors, like the top-down media, will not attack the President unless they think he's weak. But to make the case that he is weak, he must be treated with contempt, and that cannot happen when party leaders like Barack Obama simply refuse to act creatively and risk driving up their disapproval ratings. I ask, for instance, why in speeches is Obama saying that Bush is not a bad man? Why is he saying that Bush loves his country? How does that help us make the case that Bush is a liar and a fraud? It doesn't. It in fact undercuts our case, and the fact is, we are right and he is wrong, and it is important that our case base be made....Politics is about character, and George W. Bush and the right-wingers who support him simply don't have much. It's that, and not policy differences, that separates the two parties.

ETA: Shakespeare's Sister links to and expands upon the same post.
While Republicans increasingly envelop and reward rightwing extremists, the Democrats distance themselves from the left. It’s not just that they have moved to the center and expected us to follow; they show disdain for us. Stoller is quite right when he points to Obama’s comment as being little more than an attempt to dissociate himself from “the lunatic left,” which anyone who vehemently opposes and dislikes the president is automatically presumed to be, never mind that our numbers include not only Nobel prize winning scientists and fed up professionals, but also working poor, unionists, disenfranchised voters, appalled students, and former Republicans, just for a start. People who don’t think the president is a good man who loves his country do not just exist on the fringe. Yet smart progressives with genuine disagreements and fact-based dislike and distrust of Bush have as little welcome within the Democratic Party as reactionary wingnuts do have in the GOP.

Jack Abramoff clears his throat, entire Republican party freezes in horror

Indicted Washington Uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The man who paid the fella from the once-respected Cato Institute to write articles favorable to his clients. A man who has funneled money all over Congress, but mainly to Republicans. A close ally of Tom Delay.

A man who, so to speak, knows where all the bodies are buried. That man. A man who is getting ready to sing like Mariah Carey after a drinking spree:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."

I swear, this is making me feel almost like Beavis. Heh heh. Heh heh. Huh. Heh heh. Heh heh...

ETA: Speaking of Tom DeLay, the AP has a report on the lush life he's been leading...and just who's been paying the bill.
Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.

That ought to play well this holiday season, don't you think?

You know how I hate to repeat myself... be redundant. To say the same things, over and over.

But once again I find myself looking at future elections and thinking: This race is the Democrats to lose...but if there's anyone who can lose this race, it's the Democrats.

On AmericaBlog, Rob sets out in plain and simple language the argument that the President has not only broken the law, but violated the Constitution. But it's not Rob's plain and simple language. No, as Mr. Bush once said he did, Rob appealed to a higher Father.

Actually more than one.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

-- United States Constitution, Amendment IV

Rob goes on to ask, what about the legal question? What should the punishment be, for a person who breaks the law the president has already admitted breaking? Once again, this is pretty plain, according to the US code.
An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
I have the feeling that I'm going to be seeing a lot of old quotes soon. From the Bush Republicans who insisted that no man should be above the law, when they were talking about Big Daddy Clinton, but are suprisingly silent on this point with Jr.

Oh, man

That same Bruce Fein fella I mentioned yesterday has written a column for the Washington Times. Now, as I said, Fein is pretty conservative-besides working in the Justice Department under Reagan, more recently he's also a big Alito supporter. And the Wash Times is, certainly, generally to be found in Mr. Bush's corner.

This is part of what Mr. Fein had to say.
...there are no checks on NSA errors or abuses, the hallmark of a rule of law as opposed to a rule of men. Truth and accuracy are the first casualties of war. President Bush assured the world Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion. He was wrong. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Americans of Japanese ancestry were security threats to justify interning them in concentration camps during World War II. He was wrong. President Lyndon Johnson maintained communists masterminded and funded the massive Vietnam War protests in the United States. He was wrong. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan's remark to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, President Bush can be trusted in wartime, but only with independent verification....

They're throwing Reagan quotes against him. It's almost too cruel to watch. Almost, but not quite. Won't it be a trip if it's the conservative wing of the Republican party that brings him down?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Will a rising tide sink all boats?

There is a small but rising chorus of questions about, and in one or two cases open calls for, impeachment.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, has sent a letter to four presidential scholars, asking them to give their opinions on whether President George W. Bush has committed an impeachable offense.

Famed constitutional attorney Martin Garbus and former intelligence officer Christopher Pyleboth say it is an impeachable offense.

...ranking House Judiciary Democrat Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) [has made a] motion to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for providing misleading information to Congress in advance of the Iraq war, failing to respond to written questions, and violating international law.

The resolutions were introduced Sunday evening along with a third resolution (HR 635) to create a Select Committee to investigate the administration's intent to go to war prior to congressional authorization. The committee would also be charged with examining manipulation of pre-war intelligence, thwarting Congressional oversight and retaliatory attacks against critics. As part of this resolution, House Judiciary Democrats seek also to explore violations of international law as pertaining to detainee abuse and torture of prisoners of war.

The Select Committee seeks to subpoena the President and other members of the administration in hopes of ascertaining if impeachable offenses have been committed...

Ah, you may be saying, but Boxer and Conyers are Democrats. That's true. And from what I could find out with a quick Yahoo! skim, Garbus and Pyle are comparatively liberal, too. But that's more than can be said for Bruce Fein and Norm Ornstein.

Fein is the former deputy attorney general in the Reagan Administration, Ornstein is a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Here's how they responded to a recent question on the matter.

QUESTION: Is spying on the American people as impeachable an offense as lying about having sex with an intern?

BRUCE FEIN: I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.

NORM ORNSTEIN: I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.

Will anything come of this? God knows. But some pretty big guns from both sides of the aisle are saying it should.

Here comes Snoopgate

Brendan Nyhan quotes an item by Jonathan Alter that is making the rounds in the blogsphere today. It reveals that President Bush made a last-ditch effort to quash the illegal spying story. Alter writes:

Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

Nyhan says this is "right on," and speculates about how much effect politics had on preventing the Times from running the story. Supposedly they were told it was a threat to national security.

Putting aside what I've been saying about why, why, why would anyone believe Bush has credibility on that or any issue, Nyhan writes:

...there's no reason to think that the Times couldn't have rewritten the story in a manner that would have protected American intelligence capabilities a year ago. Isn't it possible that the Times held off partly for political reasons? A year ago, President Bush had just been re-elected in large part due to his claims that he would do a better job of protecting the country from terrorism. Times journalists who fear accusations of media bias might have hesitated to release such an explosive story at that time. But with President Bush increasingly unpopular and under fire from liberals and conservatives alike, the Times overcame its doubts and decided put the story out.

He goes on to get into something that's been worrying me for over a month now. Yeah, all of a sudden the press seems to have realized that all the things that people who were paying attention have been telling them for years about Bush are true. But it's not because they've suddenly rediscovered their inner Edward R. Murrows and Walter Cronkites. It's because now, Bush is safe to attack.


This is part of a larger story I hope to tell in my dissertation about how presidential scandals are driven in large part by approval ratings. Media outlets and politicians appear to time their rhetoric for maximum impact. And in this case, the environment for creating a scandal is far more favorable today than it was a year ago. Similarly, Democratic criticism of the program is far more harsh than it would have been as recently as 2004 -- and that's because they don't fear the repercussions of questioning Bush's anti-terror policies nearly as much as they once did.

Democrats have a tendency to rush from savior to savior (I'm not always immune). When we look around for who deserves our support, we may much admire those who are capable of saying "I was wrong."

But we should never overlook the people who can say "I was right."

Smoking guns, hot to the touch...

Update: Josh Marshall has a post in today's Talking Points Memo answering a column by William Kristol and Gary Schmitt in which they basically argue that under extraordinary circumstances presidents can and should have the power to take extraordinary, sometimes extralegal measures.

Josh reminds me of why I voted for TPM in the Best Blog category of the Weblog Awards by citing Thomas Jefferson admitting this may be so...
But that wasn't the end of his point. Having taken such a step, it would then be the obligation of the president to throw himself on the mercy of the public, letting them know the full scope of the facts and circumstances he had faced and leave it to them -- or rather their representatives or the courts -- to impeach him or indict those who had taken it upon themselves to act outside the law.

As I recall Jefferson's argument there was never any thought that the president had the power to prevent future prosecutions of himself or those acting at his behest. Indeed, such a follow-on claim would explode whatever sense there is in Jefferson's argument.

Bill Clinton, Jan. 26, 1998: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

George W. Bush, April 20, 2004:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

I know I keep coming back to this, but it bears repeating until something is done: Any Republican (or for that matter any Democrat) who supported the impeachment and/or calls for resignation of Bill Clinton is now ethically required to do the same for Bush. Especially the ones who loved to mewl about how it wasn't the sex, it was the lie. They can't have it both ways.

ETA: Media Girl has good excerpts from (and comments on) Bush's attempted defense of illegally spying on Americans.

Bush: "That's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."

You know I only rape you 'cause I love you, baby...why you make me keep hitting you?

Monday, December 19, 2005

I deny you cider

Got a comment today from someone who posted anonymously, but if I had to guess I'd say it was Experience Bypass. EB claims to have been "a senior executive of several Fortune 500 companies;" if that's so then I guess such companies allow for a more original relation to literacy than most.

But my commenter, whether or not it was in fact EB, had this to say:
No wonder the Left is losing.

What a bunch of twaddle.

You dont actually believe this bullshit you write do you?

This must be some sort of joke.

Which brings to mind the question: If the left is losing, what the hell is the right doing? Because it sure ain't winning, not when President Bush’s job approval is at 38%. Twaddle, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but by one definition I'd say 90% of all blogging falls into that category: Foolish, trivial, or idle talk or chatter.

Do I actually believe this bullshit I write? Well yes, most of it-except for the parts that are obviously jokes. I'm not kidding about wanting to see any of the Go-Go's in the Oval Office, though.

As for this being some sort of joke, the "this" EB or whoever was commenting on was my entry quoting the Fox poll results about Alito's plummeting support among Republicans. It had almost no personal commentary from me whatsoever.

So I'm not sure exactly what part he/she/it feels must be a joke...

Answer me this question

Is there any way in which our country would not be in better shape if any one of the Go-Go's were president right now? With the rest of the girls in her administration, of course. I mean granted, Belinda is reportedly a Republican, but I think the rest of 'em are even further left than I am, so they'd balance each other out. They can't do a worse job and they might do better.

At least with the Go-Go's in the White House, the music would be better than Bush's damn two-chord frat rock (sorry, CCR fans). And the chances would be much more excellent than with the Bush administration that we'd get to see them having pillow fights in their underwear...

But seriously folks... Katrina vanden Heuvel has a good report on the (sigh) real White House's record of Spying and Lying. She also brings up something that I've wondered about from time to time, too: Why have the press, some Democrats in the senate and congress, consistently acted as though this administration were anything other than incompetent, fraudulent liars, in spite of their record? was reported in yesterday's Washington Post that the decision by Times editor Bill Keller to withhold the article caused friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the paper's DC bureau had apparently pushed for earlier publication. In an explanatory statement, Keller issued the excuse that, "Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions." This from a paper, which as First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus pointed out in a letter to editor "rejected similar arguments when it courageously pub;ished the Pentagon Papers over the government's false objections that it would endanger our foreign policy as well as the lives of individuals." The Times, Garbus went on to argue, "owes its readers more. The Bush Administration's record for truthfulness is not such that one should rely on its often meaningless and vague assertions."

Let's get back to what I was talking about

...about kvelling when there's bad news for Bush Republicans:
A Fox News poll conducted December 13-14, 2005 shows Alito’s support dropping precipitously. Respondents were asked: “If you were voting on Samuel Alito’s nomination, would you vote to confirm him or not?” Only 57% of Republican respondents answered “yes” – a drop of 18 percentage points from a poll conducted shortly after his nomination (75% of Republican respondents answered “yes” in a November 8-9 poll).

Support for Alito among Independents dropped 11 points (from 39% to 28%); Democratic support dropped 9 points from 26% to 17%. Overall support dropped from 46% to 35%. Support for John Roberts in earlier polls was significantly higher (50% and 51%).

And that's from FOX.

Via War and Piece, where Laura adds,
And the poll was taken before the latest NSA warrantless spying on Americans revelations, which certainly make Alito's views on executive powers a subject of concern.

Answers a lot, doesn't it?

Credit: Uggabugga

Don't believe the hype

Eric Alterman:

I accidentally turned on ABC News last night expecting to find Desperate Housewives and unhappily was greeted by Elizabeth Vargas and that other new guy. She told me that people were “very optimistic” in Iraq and that turnout for the election had reached 70 percent. I can promise you that number is unsupportable.

The truth is nobody had any idea what the turnout in Iraq was. All the early coverage can handle is whether there are long lines for voting or not. If there are, the vote was a success. All you have to do to get the US media to go along with your foreign election is make sure there aren’t enough voting places—something at which the Bush administration demonstrated its considerable skill in Ohio. Months or years from now, we’ll get the truth, but this falling for it every time—well, that’s as sure a thing a Roger Clemons striking out your grandmother, should he ever get the chance. Anyway, ABC News thinks this constitutes, “Breaking News”: “Bush Claims U.S. Forces Are On The "Road To Recovery" In Iraq."

Say what you will about the war on Christmas

...but this card, sent out by the governor of California and his wife, is really sharp.

Some days you just feel more isolated from your culture than others

This is the third in my intermittent series of posts that might also be called "Why I don't want to see it." In these I talk about movies that I find myself with surprisingly little desire to see, despite the fact that they're well-reviewed, have a story or a kind of story that has been of interest to me in other formats, or both.

I always feel the need to draw the perhaps-thin distinction that I am not criticising these films, because I haven't seen them. I'm just talking about my response to what I have seen about them.

Today I'm talking about Brokeback Mountain. By RT consensus, this is

A beautifully epic Western, [a] gay love story...embued with heartbreaking universality, helped by the moving performances of Ledger and Gyllenhaal.

That comes from movie critics, but it goes along with most bloggers and columnists I've seen discussing the movie too. Yet, when I saw the trailer for the movie earlier this just looked silly to me. So I ask myself: Why silly?

I have no trouble conceiving of a love story, one that I hope is universal, between two women, as I think most of you reading this know. It's the project that has been dominating my life for a couple of years now.

Could it be that when it's my own sex I get a little embarassed? Yeah, maybe. I mean I don't think so, and I certainly don't think that's all of it, but I won't deny the possibility. On the other hand, a few of my favorite flicks have been, in whole or in part, love stories between two men. And they didn't look silly to me at all.

I'm also bothered by the apparent "heartbreaking" nature of the film. The sense I get from the reviews that I've read is that an underlying theme of the film is: "Isn't it tragic that these two men had to marry women and live a lie rather than being allowed to celebrate the truth of their gay love from the highest mountain?"

Such stories really did and really do happen (usually, these days, they involve high Republican officials). And they are tragic. It's just that I'm bored with them. I admit I have a chip on my shoulder about stories where gay=unhappiness, tragedy, and probably death. I don't know that's the case in this movie (so that's not a spoiler), but I have a bad feeling.

I've seen them before; they've been done to death, no lame play on words intended. What I haven't seen nearly enough of is stories where gay=happy (ironic, that). They don't so much incite my ire politically; this is beyond politics, I'm bored with it dramatically; as an audience member.

One of the things I'm most sensitive to in writing about my lesbian characters is that I never want their story to be what I call "The Plight Of The Young Lesbian." Where the story just becomes about all the trials and tribulations they must suffer simply because they're gay.

Very few of my characters' problems occur because they're gay. One or two of them do, because it would be sadly unrealistic to say we live in a world in which everyone can just come right out and be gay and get no static.

But mostly, I hope, it's a love story in which people make the same mistakes, and dream the same dreams, that we all do regardless of the sex of our love objects.

At Shakespeare's Sister, greatest blogger name ever SomeWateryTart complains about Brokeback Mountain being regarded as a gay love story, rather than just a love story. Others have pointed out in the comments that we live in a world in which the political nature of this film cannot help but overcome its other aspects.

I would also offer the observation that, unless I'm very much mistaken (possible), the men in this film would not have a problem, and thus there would be no story, if they were not gay. So perhaps "gay love story" is accurate.

I hope the "universality" mentioned in the consensus above is true; it's entirely possible that this could be a film like Philadelphia. That was a movie I did not like a lot; I found Tom Hanks' award-winning performance to be unbelivable in the main, and in places ghastly. Don't get me started on the opera scene.

Yet as I mention here with almost fetish-like regularity, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a place where, for obvious reasons, while it is sadly still possible to be really have to work a lot harder at it.

So Philadelphia is a movie that didn't tell me anything I didn't already know (homosexuals really, really are people too!); it failed for me possibly for that reason. But I've seen and heard at least anecdotal evidence that in the "red states" it actually did open a few minds. Maybe what seemed to me like its arms-length treatment of the gay characters made them easier to swallow for that audience.

My understanding is that Brokeback Mountain is doing pretty kickass business, especially for a film not yet in wide release, and it's considered a no-brainer for next years Oscar nominations. Maybe it will open up those minds yet wider still. Frank Rich seems to think so (courtesy TGW).

I'm sure I'll see it one day, in some format. If for no other reason, a supporting role is played by Anne Hathaway. Who, I have to admit, from my POV is amazing casting for the unhappy wife of one of these gay cowboys.

Any man married to Anne Hathaway who is still not satisfied...must really, really, really be gay.

Another chance to vote

The 2005 Political Dot-Comedy Awards.

If you're amazed at the quality of posts on this site I know I am, please consider making a small donation to the Buy Ben Those Books And CDs He Can't Score Through The Ink 19 Gig Fund. I thank you.


Mark answers a letter from a reader about the political musing to which I linked yesterday. Once again, I find myself most in agreement with his conclusion:
I watched Bush's speech a little while ago. My feeling is that he's down to offering reassurance to those still on his side, and that he has nothing to offer those who've already turned against him and this war. Given how many lives have been ended or shattered by this military action -- and how many more will still be sacrificed, to say nothing of the dollar cost -- I find it all very sad. Every so often, I get an e-mail from someone who says something like, "You must be thrilled at every bit of bad news that comes out of Iraq." No, not at all...and I wouldn't think much of anyone who was. This whole thing's like a speeding bus and we're all trapped on it. Bush ain't the guy I would have chosen to drive, and he has yet to convince me he knows the route or even that the trip was a good idea in the first place. But either way, when he drives us off a cliff, he takes all of us with him.

Exactly that. Very sad. I know I'm guilty of appearing to revel in Bush's bad fortunes-but not, I hope, in the bad news from Iraq. But the truth is, no matter how hard Bush stumbles and falls, none of it will make me as happy as I would have been if:

  • We'd had ethical people on the Supreme Court in 2000
  • We had more competent newspeople.
  • We had Democrats with spines in the senate and congress
  • and/or if we'd had a Democratic candidate who could speak concisely in 2004.

If all or even some of those things had been true, we might not be in the mess we are now. Of course, Michael Moore also wouldn't have a career. I leave it to you to decide whether that's a good or a bad thing.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Political a-musing we will go

Update: Friday, December 16, 2005, it was reported that the Bush administration has been secretly spying on Americans without having to present good and sufficent cause.

12/18/2005: Finding himself with no answer to what former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) called-
unwarranted, illegal — and I think unconstitutional — eavesdropping on American citizens

-Bill Kristol, that neocon idea man who continually teases me and breaks my heart, reverts to form.

Kristol: It's Clinton's fault.

Less than two days it took him. I gotta say I'm impressed. You can also say this for the neocons: They may not have rational motives, the law, or the best interests of the county on their side, but they sure do have speed.

(Just ask their wives. Thank you! Goodnight!)

But (semi) serioously folks...

Mark Evanier has some good things to say about Bush having authorized spying on Americans without providing good and sufficent reason. I got a grim smile out of his conclusion:

In this country, we don't allow our Chief Exec to decide which laws he'll obey and which ones he won't. I think every Republican who wants to defend Bush on this one should be forced to utter the sentence, "I would not hesitate to see President Hillary Clinton have the same authority."

A Doonesbury Christmas

At, they've put together a nice collection of Christmas episodes from the comic's 35-year history. I can't get them to reproduce here legibly, but my favorites are the 1976 and 2001 strips.